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Shrimp Pad Thai

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Description

Shrimp Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand, a stir-fry noodle dish with that special balance of sweet, spicy, salty and sour that is uniquely Thai. In this recipe I give you a range of amounts for the sauce ingredients so you can adjust the four elements to suit your own taste. Make notes and perfect it. This is a quick weeknight dinner in my house and we know how we like it.

Despite the name ‘Shrimp’ Pad Thai many versions include chicken as well as the shrimp. The combination adds another element to the over all taste and I love it. The addition of bean sprouts is also quite specific. Although bean sprouts are stirred into the hot noodles some people feel that adding fresh bean sprouts at the end creates a desired contrast. Said to be essential.

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Fresh versus Dried Rice Noodles

Rice noodles deserve a place in every gluten free pantry. They are made from rice flour and are available dried or fresh in a variety of widths. Pad Thai is typically made with a wide rice noodle similar to fettuccini. Although fresh rice noodles are available I prefer the convenience of dry noodles. In my pantry I always keep thin vermicelli noodles (to make salads and salad rolls) and one wider variety that I use in this recipe.

Cooking Rice Noodles for Shrimp Pad Thai

Apparently, the biggest travesty in making Pad Thai is overcooking the noodles. Many recipes call for soaking the noodles in warm water but I use boiling water. I pour boiling water over the noodles and let them soak for five minutes. (Yes, you should set a timer.) The noodles always get a little more cooking during the stir-fry process and this method consistently works for me. I sometimes accidentally overcook them (didn’t set the timer) but the dish still tastes delicious with broken noodles. It just takes a little practice to figure out how to cook them perfectly.

Wok Cooking

I can’t say it enough, you really should have a wok. A standard flat bottom wok isn’t that expensive, will last for years (possibly decades) and it cooks Asian food best. I sometimes demonstrate cooking in a wok side-by-side cooking in a frying pan. Even the nicest All-Clad non-stick skillet can’t compare to a wok. It is an excellent investment for even the smallest amount of Asian cooking. Trust me.

Thai Ingredients for Shrimp Pad Thai

Fish sauce and tamarind are two naturally gluten free ingredients that you need to keep in your pantry for cooking Thai dishes. Tamarind gives a unique sour taste to dishes. I prefer the tamarind concentrate for ease (sold in small plastic tubs) rather than the tamarind pulp or paste that needs to be softened with water and strained.

Tamarind Concentrate vs Tamarind Paste
Tamarind Concentrate vs Tamarind Paste -photo credit Jim Little

Fish sauce is like a condiment used in almost every Thai dish, just as salt and soy sauce are used in other cultures. Got vegan friends? The best news is that this Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute is fabulous and allows vegans to enjoy Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. I used it for one of my Thai cooking classes and it worked in every dish we made. In fact, we all decided we couldn’t tell the difference from the regular fish sauce.

Two bottles of fish sauce
Two bottles of fish sauce -photo credit Jim Little
A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute
Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute -photo credit Jim Little

Let me know in the comments below how you like your Shrimp Pad Thai.


More Thai Recipes


A Travel Story

If you are interested in travel I recounted my trip to Thailand in a guest post over on my friends’ blog, Travel Tales of Life.  The post is titled Thai Red Shrimp Curry.

Ingredients

SAUCE
1-1½ Tbsp tamarind concentrate
¼ cup GF chicken stock
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp GF soy sauce
½-1 tsp chile sauce
⅛ tsp ground pepper
3-4 Tbsp brown sugar
PAD THAI
8 oz. wide rice noodles
1 boneless chicken breast chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp GF soy sauce
12-15 medium raw shrimp, shells removed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 green onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1-2 fresh Thai chilies, sliced
1 egg
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
TOPPINGS
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ cup salted peanuts, chopped
lime wedges

Directions

1
Make the sauce and set aside.
2
Place rice noodles in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for 5 minutes until soft and almost cooked through. Drain and set aside.
3
Cut chicken into small pieces and toss with 1 Tbsp soy sauce. Set aside.
4
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in wok over medium-high heat. Add green onion, garlic, ginger and chiles. Stir-fry 1 minute.
5
Add chicken and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add shrimp and stir-fry another 2 minutes.
6
Push all ingredients up the sides of the wok making room in the center. Break the egg right into the wok and quickly stir to scramble, about 1 minute.
7
Mix everything together then add noodles and sprouts.
8
Add half the Pad Thai sauce and stir together (I like to use a pasta server and a flat scraper).
9
Add the remaining sauce as the wok dries out and continue cooking until the sauce is absorbed and the noodles are cooked, about 5 minutes. If the noodles are not cooked enough add 1 Tbsp of water and stir-fry for another minute.
10
Divide into 3 or 4 bowls. Top with second amount of bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges. These all complete the taste and are not meant to be garnishes left uneaten.

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