I remember the first time that I tried Pad Thai, I was 20 years old (10 years ago!) living in Chicago in Rogers Park two blocks from Lake Michigan, Loyola University and the CTA.
Just a couple of stops south off the red line there is a charming little place called Rice Thai Cafe that I began to frequent every other week. Their lunch specials were very affordable and I always sought out the Shrimp Pad Thai with vegetables PLUS they included an egg roll, miso soup and a potsticker or crab Rangoon! It was a chill $7, that’s a lot of bang for your buck!
Being from El Paso I had no idea about other ethnic cuisines other than Mexican, Tex-mex and the commercial Italian. Not that El Paso didn’t already have scattered ethnic culinary gems, I just hadn’t mustered up the courage to explore, I feared the unknown. Chicago brought me out of my comfort zone, pushed me into the culinary swimming pool without floaties and said, “quit being such a yellow belly!” Thankfully my belly stayed afloat and I fed that thing with wholesome dishes from mom & pop shops in my neighborhood and became very interested in all of the cultures behind every dish.
Pad Thai became a comfort food I never tired of. It’s sweet, sour, savory, spicy, nutty and full of exciting textures. I learned that this dish might in fact be a Chinese dish that was adopted and made with Thai flavors some time during the Chinese immigration and trade. We all know that the noodle was conceived in China so it’s not that far fetched to believe that Thailand could have borrowed and modified it.
Pad Thai literally means “Thai Stir Fry” it can be bought from street vendors in Thailand. This noodle dish is very simple to make you just need the right ingredients!Ingredients such as the tamarind paste and fish sauce I sourced at my local asian market but you can find the fish sauce at your local grocery store and the tamarind paste you can find on amazon! For my vegan friends I’ll link you to a vegan “fish sauce” and scrambled tofu recipe. For the proteins, I recommend that you substitute shrimp with tofu, seitan or extra vegetables! Lets get started…
Shrimp & Vegetable Pad Thai
Pad Thai Sauce
- 1/4 c soy sauce *
- 1/4 c fish sauce*
- 2 tbsp tamarind paste
- 3 tbsp brown sugar*
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 inch ginger minced
- 2 thai chilis thinly sliced*
*sub soy with coconut aminos or tamari if Gluten Free
* click here for an easy vegan fish sauce recipe! —>Vegan Fish Sauce
*traditionally palm sugar is used. use it if you can find it
*sub 1 tsp of dry cayenne or 1 tbsp of Sambal
In a small bowl add all ingredients and whisk until evenly incorporated. Set aside.
- 1 bag of Rice Noodles
- 6 cups of boiling water
In a medum bowl place the rice noodles in and add boiling water over noodles and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Once rice noodles are through steaming drain noodles in a colander and rince with cold water to stop the residual heat from cooking noodles. Other wise you’ll be left with really soggy rice noodles!
Shrimp & Veggies
- 12 medium sized deveined raw shrimp*
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 red bell pepper julienned
- 1/2 cup snap peas
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded cabbage
- 6 green onions roughly chopped
- 2 eggs*
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
* Sub Tofu
* Tofu Scramble
Method:Heat a wok on medium high until it’s nice and hot then add the oil. Add your shrimp (or tofu) and only cook them long enough to get a quick sear on both sides. Remove them from wok onto a plate and set aside. Next add all of your veggies and sautee them for about 5-7 minutes.Scoot your veggies to one side of the wok to make room for your eggs or tofu scramble). Add eggs and scramble until fully cooked before mixing with vegetables. Mix eggs with vegetables. Return the shrimp and noodles to the wok and pour the Pad Thai sauce over everything as well as the lime juice and toss in the wok a few times to coat everything then bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until sauce has thickened and sticks to the noodles!
*omit peanuts if you have an allergy
Method: place Pad Thai on a plate or bowl and garnish with these suggested garnishes as you please! Provecho!