Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pad Thai, full of SECRETZ

Inorite, Pad Thai? That blandest of Thai dishes, boooooring, who eats that crap, bla bla bla. While I've had some decent PT in my day, it isn't a dish I truly love - and when I go to a Thai establishment, I'm invariably ordering curry. But I've had to make batch after batch of this stuff lately for work, and I think I've finally got a really good, really consistent recipe. So, naturally, I wanna share.

Pad Thai

serves 3-4

12 oz rice sticks
1/3 cup Kecap Manis
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown or palm sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind puree (or 1 tablespoon concentrate soaked in 2 tablespoons hot water, mashed and strained)
1/3 cup pickled turnip, minced fine
1 tablespoon sriracha
6 cloves garlic or 6 shallots, minced
1 large handful bean sprouts
1 bunch scallions, sliced to ribbons
1 block tofu, cubed and fried, or 2 cans vegetarian duck, drained, roughly chopped, and panfried
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
1/3 cup fried shallots
Handful of fresh veggies, ie: 5 mushrooms, 1 small zucchini, 1/2 green pepper
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, place your noodles. Boil 2 cups water, pour over, and fill the rest of the bowl with hot water from the tap. Stir with fork or salad tongs to separate noodles - you don't want the ends sticking together.

In a large measuring cup, mix the Kecap Manis, sriracha, sugar, tamarind and soy sauce together. Set aside.

In a large wok, add your oil, garlic, turnip and any "tough" veggie you're using (we used thinly sliced green pepper here). Stir fry over medium-high heat until fragrant and soft, about 6 minutes. Add your mushrooms and zucchini, if using. Stir fry until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add your noodles and sauce, plus your protein (duck or tofu), and half the peanuts. Grab salad tongs or two large forks and work the pile, mixing and turning over every 10 seconds or so, making sure to coat all noodles. Keep them moving so they don't stick to the wok. After sauce is absorbed, check a noodle for doneness - add water, a little soy sauce, and a little more Kecap Manis until noodles are al dente. Add your sprouts and scallions at the end, toss well, take the wok off the heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Pile noodles on a plate, sprinkle with remaining peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with sriracha, a slice of lime, and a couple scallions and bean sprouts scattered over top. Here, we had choy sum on the side, sauteed in garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.

So, there are 3 things that are essential to this messy process:

Salad Tongs

There is no spatula capable of stirring 5 pounds of Pad Thai properly. So grab your Tongs and go to it.

Kecap Manis

This stuff really isn't a secret, but it is ESSENTIAL. If you use only soy sauce and sugar, you'll be missing out on the smoky molasses flavor bottled here.

Salted (or pickled) Turnip

I've tried fermented bean curd, pickled mustard greens, and bamboo shoots - but nothing adds that awesome, skunky undertone like salted turnip. Yum.

If you're getting tired of Srirachaing everything to death, try this hot sauce accompaniment:

Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon juice from pickled turnips
1/2 tsp salt
6-8 fresh bird's eye chilis

Put it all in a blender and puree. VERY hot, but clean and fresh. Best for dipping.


  1. I've never heard of kecap manis. I'll keep an eye out for it.

  2. unreal. This dish looks phenomenal.

  3. Erika - if you're in LA, it should be muchas easy to find. Indonesian, typically, although there are some Thai brands out there :)

    Caitlin - thanks sista. I used to be a Pad Thai hater until I started making my own and could control sugar levels (most restaurants make it sooooo sweet).