Looking for Pad Thai Tips
This is a repost blog.
4 March 2017: Looking for Pad Thai Tips
When I was worse at cooking and less careful with my money I would get lots of take-out pad thai. Now I’m making it on my own and looking for a way to make it more flavorful. Ive tried the classic salt and acid tips already.
Here’s what I’m doing now:
The sauce is vinegar, fish sauce, simple syrup, salt, and ground up red peppers. I eyeball the ratios, but it’s about 1:4:5 for simple syrup, fish sauce, and vinegar. I garnish with crushed dry roasted peanuts and lots and lots of lime juice.
The contents are rice noodles, bean sprouts, eggs, and chicken. It’s a mix of light and dark meat because I cook whole chickens with lemon, salt, pepper and onion, shred all the meat, and add that to whatever dish I’m making. I’m using vegetable oil to fry in.
My ideas so far: Use rice vinegar, add white and green onions, soak the noodles in stock instead of water (will that even help with rice noodles?) maybe splurge on peanut oil to fry with
Thoughts on my ideas? More ideas? Secret tips to share?
4 May 2023: Pad Thai Tips: An Update After Two Months of Experimentation.
About two months ago I asked this sub for help with Pad Thai.
Since then i’ve made variations of the dish several times, and by several times I mean way too much. This is what i’ve found. Oh disclaimer: I wouldn’t call this authentic at all.
Tamarind is amazing. Only on my laziest of days will I omit it. The added sourness really helps balance out the flavors of the dish. Would recommend highly.
Brown sugar is the best sweetener. White sugar, simple syrup and coconut sugar do not hold up as well. I also add it at the end, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to do so.
My opinion on aromatics: Lots of fresh ginger. Lots of garlic. I usually have yellow onions on hand so I use those instead of green onions and I think it works just fine. The times i’ve tried using green onions I haven’t noticed a quality boon.
Vegetable oil is fine. I can’t taste the difference between vegetable oil and coconut oil in this dish specifically. It has enough complex flavors layered on top of it that I don’t notice the flavors of the coconut oil. I haven’t tried peanut oil, canola oil or shortening.
Chili paste is fine, fresh thai chilis are not necessary.
Vinegar is your friend. One of the commenters on the previous post said I wouldn’t need it if had tamarind. I respectfully disagree. I use cane vinegar. I suspect rice vinegar or white vinegar would be fine as well. Balsamic doesn’t really work. If it’s all you have on hand it’s better than nothing, but it adds a totally different flavor to the dish that doesn’t work as well as lighter vinegars.
Lime: If you add vinegar, the lime is not as necessary but still nice. If you really like the lime flavor, decrease the vinegar so it doesn’t get too acidic. Made that mistake and it was not fun. Adding a very very small bit of baking soda will help in that case.
Peanuts: Peanut butter will work at adding a nutty depth if you don’t have crushed peanuts on hand. If you roast your peanuts yourself, erre on the side of almost-burned. I’ve tried with over-roasted, under-roasted, and regular peanuts. I prefer over-roasted.
I did not notice whether soaking the noodles in salted water made a difference. I only tried this once though and it was in a batch where I changed lots of other things. I will investigate further in the future.
Vegetables: Bean sprouts are a necessity. Carrots are preferred. Bok choy is great. Peas, Green and red bell peppers are good. Spinach and celery work, but could go either way. Cabbage does not work well. Avoid.
Protein: Eggs are amazing and should be added every time. Marinated tofu works really well. White fish is meh. I don’t miss chicken. I just haven’t had it in the house since I started making this dish. I don’t think it would add anything over tofu and eggs, which are both cheaper anyway. Too poor to try shrimp, but I suspect it would go well.
Sauces: Fish sauce and soy sauce are recommended. Tahini makes for a tasty addition, but at that point the flavor profile changes enough that it’s not even close to pad thai anymore.
Anyway, those are my findings. If anyone else has tips or insights of their own feel free to share them.
Can you give your basic recipe? I’m interested in giving this a try.
It’s all by eye so these are approximate values. Also, I would look up other recipes and consider using those as a starting point since I’m less than a year into serious cooking.
Ingredients Dried tamarind, 1/6 block. Fish sauce, 2 tbsp Soy sauce, 1 tbsp Cane/rice/white vinegar, 2 tbsp Thai Chili paste, 3 tbsp, but this one is very much to taste based on how much spice you like Garlic, 4 cloves, minced Ginger, 2 inches, grated without skin. You can mince this too instead if you feel like it. Brown sugar 1 tbsp Bean Sprouts, 2-3 cups Carrots, julienned, 1/3-2/3 cup. I say julienned, but I usually just take a peeler to them and end up with long thin strips. Green Bell pepper, 1, chopped. Not strictly necessary but I can’t get enough bell peppers in my life. Rice noodles, medium width, 4 oz or so. They usually come in 12oz packs, and I base the amount of noodles I add on how many vegetables I add. I tend to not add too many noodles though. Yellow onion, 1 medium or large, depending on how much onion you like. Diced. Eggs, 3 large or 4 medium. Tofu, marinated how you like, 1/4 lb (this is a TOTAL guess at the quantity) Vegetable oil, a few tbsp I guess. Salt and Pepper Crushed Peanuts for garnish about 1 tbsp per bowl of pad thai you serve. Lime Juice for garnish
I keep tofu marinating to use for stuff. Finding a good way to marinade that is a whole other ballgame, and a work-in progress for me. I marinate mine in vinegar and soy sauce. But anyway, marinade that at least overnight. Note that the quantities for marinating are not the quantities above.
Put the tamarind in a bowl and cover with boiling water. A channel on youtube called “hot thai kitchen” has the specifics of how to use tamarind. Great video, would link hit I’m on mobile. Do that whole schabang. Boiling water, mashing, straining.
Soak rice noodles in cold water for a half hour or so.
While they’re soaking, prep all the veggies. Add sprouts, Peppers, chili paste, Carrots, tofu to a bowl. Mix them up with the vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and tamarind.
Heat some veg oil in a wok if you’re fancy or a pot if you are me and don’t have a wok or a big enough frying pan for all the vegetables. Fry up the garlic, ginger, and yellow onion for like 5 or so mins on med-high. It would probably be better if I fried them at a lower heat for a longer time but I’m lazy.
Scramble the eggs and add them. Cook until nearly firm. Add the noodles, vegetables and their liquids and crank the heat UP.
Keep moving them around and cook until the liquid is mostly gone and the veggies are to your desired firmness. The key should be that they stop giving off massive amounts of steam and only give off a little. Should be at least 5 mins, no more than 10 or something’s up. About a minute or two before you think you’ll be done, add the brown sugar.
Then garnish with crushed peanuts and a few squirts of lime juice.
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