Shrimp Pad Thai

14 oz rice noodles
1 lb shrimp—peeled, cleaned, and deveined
¾ cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 thai chili, finely chopped (or 1 tsp red pepper flakes for a milder heat)
1 bunch scallions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bean sprouts
8 oz firm tofu–drained, patted dry, and cubed into ½" pieces
1/3 cup peanuts, finely chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
4 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp shrimp paste
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

Soak the rice noodles in slightly warm water for 30-45 minutes. Drain, then set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat, then add half the vegetable oil and sauté the garlic, eggs, and shrimp. Stir constantly for 1–2 minutes until the shrimp just begin to turn pink. Remove from heat and place shrimp and egg mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Return the wok to heat and add the remaining oil and noodles.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the scallions, thai chili, and tofu and cook for another minute.

In a bowl, whisk together the tamarind paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, and shrimp paste.  Once smooth, pour the mixture into the wok, followed by the bean sprouts and shrimp and egg mixture.  Cook for another 2 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Serve garnished with the cilantro, peanuts, and the lime wedges.

Approximate Nutritional Values:

Pad Kee Mao

I’ve been cooking with dried rice noodles for years, yet for some reason I didn’t encounter fresh ones until three or four years ago. I absolutely fell in love with the texture, but found they were not consistently stocked. A year and a half ago I learned to make my own. A little involved and time consuming, but the process is simple enough. Maybe I’ll do a post on that later. But for now, here’s a meal I just made with them.

I think this is what I’m supposed to do. Showing off the mise en place. This is what you usually see in the cooking blogs, right? All your ingredients neatly lined up. Ok, I’m actually missing a few. I snapped this earlier in the day after finishing the noodles while I still had a nice bit of daylight.

I wanted to cook up Aliza Green’s Rad Na Thai recipe (from Starting With Ingredients), but that book didn’t come with us, and the recipes I found online were different enough from what I remember making. I’ll have to recreate it some time later. For now, I was happy to settle on Mark Bittman’s Pad Kee Mao recipe (with a few minor alterations).

On average, the Japanese tolerance for heat isn’t on par with much of S and SE Asia. Finding fresh chilis can be challenging. I had to opt for adding a nice dose of Korean chili flake in place of the fresh chilis as recommended. Sadly I didn’t think to put any hot peppers in the garden this year. Perhaps next!

All the aromatics go in first, chopped chilis, garlic, and onion, followed by the pork and a splash of the sauce mixture. Once the pork is cooked, diced peppers, fresh rice noodles, and most of the sauce are added. If you are unable to find fresh rice noodles, dry ones should be available – be sure to soak them! 1 oz of dried for every 4 oz fresh in the original recipe. Mostly I would use wide rice sticks, but if you can find rice “flake” noodles (that look like the above in dried form) more power to you. That shape is ideal for these stir fries.

Finish with a generous dose of bean sprouts and fresh Thai basil. Once everything is warmed through, you’re good to go! I should say I’ve been having trouble tracking down sweet Thai soy sauce (kecap manis). Recipes can be readily found online. In the moment I’ll add some sugar or simple syrup to dark soy sauce, and just allow the extra liquid a moment to cook down.