Pad Thai noodles stir-fried and tossed in a flavorful sauce. This authentic recipe features succulent shrimp, but you can also use chicken, beef, tofu or a combination.
Southeast Asian cuisine is known for bold, exotic flavors. One of the most popular dishes ordered at Thai restaurants is pad thai noodles. The combination of tender wok-fired rice noodles, coated in a savory, sweet and tangy sauce makes for an incredible meal.
This Thai recipe is simple to prepare, yet complex in flavor. The shrimp and scrambled eggs not only add protein but make for an exciting taste experience. These noodles will quickly become a family favorite and tasty addition to the dinner table! I love to make a little extra and have leftovers for the next day.
What is Pad Thai?
Authentic pad thai is crowd-pleasing Thai street food that has become beloved in the States. It’s a stir-fry noodle dish made in a wok with some key ingredients:
- Rice noodles: Sold as rice sticks, dried rice noodles, rice vermicelli, and Vietnamese bun.
- Protein: Shrimp, tofu, chicken, and eggs are favorite add-ins.
- Pad Thai Sauce: Fish sauce, tamarind paste, lime juice, rice vinegar, and palm sugar.
- Aromatics & Garnish: Garlic, green onions, bean sprouts, peanuts, and paprika for color.
How to make Pad Thai
This dish uses bold flavors such as fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, and tamarind. These ingredients make the base for pad thai sauce, which is very different than the Chinese noodle dishes like chow mein, that I grew up devouring. Follow these key steps for making a great pad thai:
1) Soak the rice noodles
The first step is to soak the rice noodles in lukewarm, tepid water, about 80 to 90°F/ 27 to 32°C. This process is crucial to allow the rice flour to begin to soak up water and become pliable but still have some rigidity. Once the noodles are stir-fried, they should be tender with a slight al dente texture.
2) Fry the egg
The egg gets fried with the garlic, adding some additional protein and richness to the dish.
3) Stir-fry the shrimp
Shrimp only require about one minute of cook time until it turns pink. This protein cooks very quickly and will continue to be heated as the other ingredients are added to the wok. Other popular choices of protein are chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or a combo of more than one.
4) Add rice noodles and pad thai sauce
Add the soaked noodles to the wok, and stir-fry for a few minutes until it softens and becomes pliable. Once the noodles are ready, then pour in the pad thai sauce. Once the sauce gets added, it will create a nice coating on the surface.
5) Toss the noodles with paprika
The characteristic reddish-golden hue would generally come from spicy Thai chili paste. However, the noodles have been tamed to adapt to a more western palate. Paprika is added instead towards the end of cooking to color the noodles naturally.
6) Add the garnish
Towards the end of cooking fresh vegetables like sliced green onion and bean sprouts add a pop of color and crunch to this pad thai recipe. Chopped peanuts add the final crunch to the dish.
Once a plate of hot noodles hit the dinner table, they will be eaten up in an instant! For a complete meal, I like to serve this dish alongside some chicken satay, or pineapple fried rice. What’s your favorite kind of Thai food? I’d love to hear in the comments section below!
More Thai recipes
The importance of soaking the rice noodles
Rice noodles are made with rice flour and have a robust absorbing capability, yet are delicate. To make it easier to stir-fry and prevent overcooking, the noodles are briefly soaked in lukewarm water until just pliable. When the rice noodles are added to the wok and stir-fried, it will continue to soften. If the noodles are overcooked, the sauce will completely absorb instead of stick on the outside. The result is less flavor impact and a more mushy texture.
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Pad Thai Recipe
- 14 ounces dried rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 ½ teaspoons tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large egg
- 4 ounces large shrimp, 16/20 count, peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ⅓ cup green onion pieces, 2-inches long
- 2 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- ½ cup bean sprouts
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Heat a large pot of water until it becomes lukewarm, about 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C), then turn off heat.
- Soak the rice noodles until flexible yet solid but not completely cooked, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Drain noodles and rinse with cold water.
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the sauce ingredients; fish sauce, tamarind paste, palm sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar.
- Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add oil, once hot add the garlic and stir for 15 seconds.
- Add the egg and cook until the white just begins to set but the yolk is still runny.
- Add the shrimp and mix it with the runny egg, cook until the shrimp is just turning pink and egg scrambles, about 1 minute.
- Add in soaked noodles, stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes to soften.
- Add the sauce to the noodles and stir to combine.
- Turn off the heat, add the paprika and toss until noodles turn slightly red in color.
- Add the green onion and allow to wilt from the heat of the noodles.
- Transfer to a serving plate, top with bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and serve with lime wedges.
- Brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey or maple syrup can be substituted for palm sugar.
- Fruit jam like guava, strawberry or orange marmalade can be substituted for tamarind paste.
- The sauce can be doubled for more of a coating on the noodles.
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