What is pad Thai?
Often associated with bustling street stalls or local markets, pad Thai has deep roots in Thailand's street food culture, where chefs skillfully prepare the dish on open-air woks, creating a spectacle of sizzling rice noodles and a unique flavour profile.
Traditional pad Thai ingredients typically include rice noodles, eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, and a combination of ingredients such as dried shrimp, tamarind paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, shallots, and peanuts. However, variations can include proteins like shrimp, chicken, or pork and additional vegetables and herbs.
What is the main flavour of pad Thai?
A pad Thai recipe offers a harmonious combination of sweet, sour, savoury, and nutty flavours. The balance between these elements creates a delicious and satisfying taste experience.
It's important to note that variations can exist, as the specific recipe and the chef's or region's preferences may influence the flavour profile of pad Thai to some degree.
Here are the main elements needed to make an authentic pad Thai:
- Sweetness: Pad Thai often has a subtle sweetness derived from ingredients like palm sugar, tamarind paste, or a combination of both. The sweetness helps balance the other flavours in the dish.
- Sourness: Tamarind paste is a key ingredient in pad Thai, contributing a tangy and slightly sour taste. It adds a bright and refreshing element to the dish.
- Umami: Umami is a savoury and rich taste that enhances the overall depth of flavour. Pad Thai achieves umami through ingredients like fish sauce, soy sauce, and shrimp paste. These ingredients add a savoury, salty taste.
- Nuttiness: Crushed roasted peanuts are often sprinkled on top of pad Thai, providing a delightful crunch and a nutty flavour.
- Citrusy freshness: Lime juice is commonly squeezed over pad Thai before serving. The fresh citrusy notes from the lime juice brighten the flavours and add a touch of acidity.
- Heat: Thai cuisine often incorporates chilli peppers for a spicy kick. In pad Thai, you may find a mild to moderate level of spiciness, depending on personal preference and the chef's recipe. Chilli flakes, chilli sauce, or fresh chilli peppers are used to add heat.
- Aromatics: Pad Thai typically includes aromatic ingredients such as garlic and shallots, contributing to the overall flavour profile. These aromatics provide a savoury and fragrant base for the dish.
What meat is best in pad Thai?
The most traditional protein to use in pad Thai is shrimp, but it really comes down to personal preference and dietary restrictions. Pork, chicken, and beef are popular options as well.
Can pad Thai be gluten-free?
Yes, if you're looking to make this recipe gluten-free, choose rice noodles that are specifically labelled as gluten-free. Additionally, look for a gluten-free soy sauce alternative, such as tamari or coconut aminos (stick with these options if possible to maintain the desired flavour.)
How to make pad Thai
500g chicken breast llets, cut into thin strips
1 Tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
240g store-bought pad thai paste
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
250g rice stick noodles (5mm thick)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil light in flavour
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
100g snow peas, cut into 1cm pieces
2 cups bean sprouts
4 free-range eggs, beaten
3 green shallots or garlic chives, sliced into 3cm lengths, to serve
Finely chopped red chilli, to serve
Lemon wedges, to serve
Crushed peanuts or cashews, to serve
Dried chilli akes, to serve
Put chicken, kecap manis and 2 tablespoons of the pad thai paste in a large bowl. Toss well and set aside to marinate. Put the remaining pad Thai paste in a medium bowl and stir through lemon juice, fish sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of water.
Put noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with hot (but not boiling) water. Set aside for 10 minutes or until just softened.
Meanwhile, heat a wok over a high heat until just starting to smoke. Pour in 2 teaspoons of the oil then add half of the chicken. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until cooked through.
Set aside in a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of the remaining oil to wok and stir-fry remaining chicken. Set aside.
Add 2 teaspoons of remaining oil to the wok and stir-fry onion, carrot and snow peas for 2 minutes. Return all chicken to wok. Drain noodles and add to wok along with pad thai paste mixture. Stir-fry for 1 minute, tossing well to coat. Stir in half of the bean sprouts. Set aside in a bowl.
Put remaining oil in wok then add beaten egg. Cook, scraping egg mixture from edge of wok into centre to allow raw egg to fill gaps, for 2 minutes or until all egg has set. Transfer egg to a serving platter and top with noodle mixture. Scatter with shallots or garlic chives, chilli and remaining bean sprouts.
Serve chicken pad thai with lemon wedges, peanuts or cashews and chilli flakes.
You might also like to make this one-pot Thai spiced coconut chicken rice