Many of my American friends are crazy about Thai food, especially Pad Thai. Whenever they dine out together as a group and have to choose a restaurant, a Thai restaurant is always one they can agree on. Their table always seems to get crowded with empty water bottles because of the spiciness of the Thai noodles, but no one seems to mind.
Like Shaanxi style rice noodle salad (Chinese: 陕西大米凉皮)， Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish served as a popular street food in Thailand. The sauce used in Pad Thai is a salty, fishy, and sweet sauce that dramatically intensifies the plain rice noodles. Compared to most Chinese style stir-fried noodle dishes, Pad Thai is much sweeter because the sauce is loaded with palm sugar. Palm sugar (or coconut sugar) is the most widely used sweetener in south and southeast Asia because of its abundance in that area. A simple but decent Pad Thai sauce usually is a combination of sweet palm sugar, the tart tamarind, and the salty fish sauce.
Because of the sweetness of this dish, it is not hard to understand why most of my American friends love Pad Thai. But for Pad Thai, just being sweet is not enough. Adding the strong and bold hot red pepper sauce, found in most Asian grocery stores, is also a must have. All of these four necessary ingredients are what make Pad Thai irresistible. There are several other ingredients often found in Pad Thai such as shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, pickled ginger, Chinese chives, and chopped roasted peanuts. There are many other reasons why I like Pad Thai. Here is my list:
- Pad Thai noodles are made from rice, so it is naturally gluten-free. Yeah!!
- The noodles normally don’t need to be cooked in advance. If I use the dry noodles, I just soak them in boiled water for 3 minutes, and they are ready to be fried in the sauté pan with all the other ingredients. The whole dish can be made in 15 minutes.
- Pad Thai dish is so versatile. An authentic traditional Pad Thai usually contains eggs and shrimp. But it is not only limited to those ingredients. You can make all different versions, such as tofu/vegan, chicken, beef, or pork, et al.
Fresh ginger is spicy but is very different from hot peppers. It also tastes slightly sweet. In this recipe, I stirred in some fresh ginger slices to compliment the spiciness from the sharp red pepper sauce, and it also added a fresh and biting taste to the whole dish.
I like to make this 15 minute ginger Pad Thai dish when I don’t have too much time to cook. If you are looking for a recipe that is simple and quick to make but also has a combination of sweet and bold spicy flavor, this is definitely a recipe for you.
- 10 oz rice noodles (prefer ½ inch wide ones)
- 8 cups water
- 4 tbs canola oil (divided)
- 2 large eggs, briefly stirred
- 12 large peeled shrimp, uncooked
- 1 tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tbs pickled ginger
- 3 oz mung bean sprouts
- 3 tbs homemade Pad Thai sauce (see notes)
- 1 tbs red pepper sauce
- ½ cup chopped Chinese chives, 2 inches long
- ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
- 1 medium lime, cut to wedges
- In a 4-quart sauce pan, bring approximately 8 cups water to boil. Turn off the heat. Add ¼ tsp oil into the water and then quickly immerse rice noodles into the hot water. Stir gently. Cover with lid and then let them stand for 3 to 5 minutes until the noodles are soft yet firm. Check noodles frequently to prevent overcooking.
- Drain and rinse noodles in a strainer under cold water for 30 seconds. Transfer the noodles into a bowl and set aside.
- Heat a sauté pan over high heat until smoky hot. Add 1 tbs oil and wait for 10 seconds or until the oil is hot. Pour eggs in oil and fry until scrambled. Place eggs in a bowl and set aside.
- In the same sauté pan, over high heat, add 1 tbs oil until it is hot. Add shrimp, fresh ginger, and pickled ginger and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked.
- Use spatula to push the fried shrimp and ginger to the side of sauté pan. Add the rest of oil and softened rice noodles, stir quickly and then combine with shrimp, ginger, and scrambled eggs. Add 1 tbs water at a time if the noodles are too firm. Add Pad Thai sauce and red pepper sauce. Stir-fry until the noodles are evenly coated with sauce, and all ingredients are well mixed, approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in mung bean sprouts and mix briefly, approximately 1 minute. Turn off heat. Garnish with Chinese chives, peanuts, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.
For Pad Thai Sauce (yield approximately 8 fl oz)
½ cup packed palm sugar
¼ cup fish sauce (gluten-free if desired)
2 tbs tamarind paste
½ cup water
Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature and then store in a jar and cover with lid. Store in refrigerator for 4 weeks or longer.