I first had Pad Thai in Durham of all places, at a restaurant called Zen. It was unreal – me and my mum couldn’t stop talking about it for days! Since then, I have seen it pop up on more and more menus, particularly in Wagamamas, where it is also delicious. I’ve also seen a few different recipes on YouTube (Sorted, FoodTube and the Food Busker) and in magazines for it. Having tasted a few, and cooked a number of different recipes, I’ve tried to make this one a combination of all the good bits from the various restaurants and recipes!
When and why: This dish I feel is a perfect example of what Thai/Asian cooking should be – bold, fresh, bright flavours which offer something for every part of the palette. This philosophy is embodied in the sauce for the stir fry – fish sauce (while it may smell disgusting!) offers a salty and aromatic partner to the tamarind, which is the star of the show for me. It’s very tart when tried straight out of the jar, but when cooked down, it becomes tangy, fruity, and acts as a catalyst for the flavours of the other ingredients in the dish. Finally, the palm sugar gives balance to the sauce, and provides some mellow sweetness which rounds it off beautifully. Finally, the different textures of the crunchy beansprouts, soft noodles, fleshy prawns and the smashed peanuts offer an assault on the senses.
I beg you to try this – its surprisingly simple considering how high end the finished dish is. Just make sure you prepare EVERYTHING before you even heat up the pan – preparation is crucial with all stir-frys. Another good tip is to place all your prepared ingredients on a board/platter (that you can comfortably lift), as shown below. This will make adding them to the pan easy, and saves on washing up!
The recipe (serves 4-6):
20 raw king prawns (de-shelled, de-veined)
2 chicken breasts
2 large handfuls beansprouts
3 spring onions
400g flat glass noodles (use Udon if you prefer)
For the Sauce –
6 tbsp Tamarind Paste
4 tbsp Palm Sugar
3 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
For the Garnish –
1 red chilli
1/2 small bunch coriander
150g shelled, un-roasted peanuts (sometimes called monkey nuts)
2 limes, halved
Prepare the main ingredients. Slice up the chicken into thin strips, then season lightly with salt and pepper. De-vein and de-shell the prawns if needs be.
Cook the noodles just less than as per the packet instructions – they will finish off cooking in the pan. Once almost cooked, drain in a sieve, then place in a bowl of cold water and pour over a small drizzle of neutral oil to prevent them sticking.
Prepare the sauce. Combine the tamarind paste, palm sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce in a separate bowl to form the sauce. Feel free to change these quantities depending on your personal taste.
Prepare the garnish. Heat a frying pan on a medium/high heat. Once hot, add the peanuts to the pan, and toast until golden. Once toasted, pour the nuts onto a board, and roughly chop. In the meantime, pick the coriander leaves off the stalks, then finely slice the stalks. Thinly slice the radishes into rounds. Thinly slice the spring onions and the chilli on the diagonal. Place all the ingredients onto a large platter (as below). It is important you have everything ready, as it comes together very fast.
Once everything is ready, place a large wok with a good drizzle of vegetable oil onto the highest heat. Wait until the oil is smoking hot before adding the sliced chicken – be careful, as the oil will spit up. Cook the chicken for a 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to get brown. Once the chicken has reached this stage, move the chicken to the side of the pan, crack in the 2 eggs into the space, and immediately whisk in the pan with a wooden/plastic spatula to scramble them.
Once the eggs are scrambled, mix in with the chicken, move them both to the side of the pan, and add in the prawns. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the prawns turn pink, then mix with the chicken and egg, and add in 1/2 of the sauce
Add in the noodles, coriander stalks, 1/2 the spring onions and beansprouts, and stir together. Continually mix/toss the stir fry for 2-3 mins, until everything is just cooked through. Add in the 1/2 of the chopped peanuts, and the remaining sauce, stir through, then take off the heat.
Bring a griddle pan (or frying pan if you dont have one) to a high heat, and place the lime wedges flesh side down onto the pan for 2-4 mins, until you can see the sugar in them caramelise. You can skip this step, but it gives the limes a completely different dimension, and really adds to the dish.
Time to plate up. Swizzle the noodles round some tongs to try and get height into the dish. Garnish with the coriander leaves, chilli, radishes, and the remaining spring onions and peanuts.
I’d love you to make this. If you do, let me know on Instagram (@OTCooks_Eats) or in the comments below how you got on with it, and if you can think of anyone who would like to try this recipe, let them know about the blog and the instagram.
Much love as always,