color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – ผัดไทย

I couldn’t believe it, when going through my collection of Tasty Tuesdays thus far, that I have yet to do one on perhaps Thailand’s most well-known dish across the globe.  How could I have missed it?  After all, I probably eat it once a week.  I see it everywhere I go.  And, as I said before, it is probably the one Thai meal you are familiar with, even if you have never had Thai food.

Pad Thai.  ผัดไทย.  Mmmmmmm.  This is a plate from the shop just down the street from our house.  This lady makes a little bit of everything, and she’s pretty good.

How does that look to you?  Have you had Pad Thai before in the States?  I bet it didn’t look the same, did it.  As with a lot of Thai food, it’s different here in Thailand.  (Granted, if you live on the West Coast where there is a large Thai population, yours is more likely to be like it is here… but, I figure most of you reading are from the Midwest, right?)

Before Brook and I came to Thailand for the first time, back in 2005, we tried to experience as much Thai food as we could via a small restaurant in Fort Wayne, IN and packaged Asian cuisine from the grocery store.  The Pad Thai we always had was thick, reddish-brown in color, and had a sweet-tangy flavor to it.  It was really good… but, little did we know, that wasn’t really true Pad Thai.  Rather it was a more Westernized version, based off of one particular (not very wide-spread) variation on the meal found here in Thailand.  Hmmmm.

True, traditional, original, basic, unadulterated Pad Thai is actually rather light and fresh.  No sticky sauces, no thick tomato-y base.  Just clean, distinct flavors and lots of fresh ingredients.  It’s sooooo good.  So, what’s in it then?

  • flat rice noodles (medium width most common, but small are fine, too)
  • shrimp or chicken
  • eggs
  • bean sprouts
  • roasted, ground peanuts
  • green onion
  • fresh cilantro/coriander
  • peanut, coconut, or other vegetable oil for frying
  • tofu
  • garlic

And for the sauce?

  • fish sauce (you can substitute soy if you need to, but the flavor will be heavier)
  • little squeeze of lime juice
  • palm or brown sugar
  • tamarind paste
  • dash of vinegar

The method of cooking for Pad Thai is pretty much the same as every other stir-fried dish.  Start by frying the tofu for a minute or two, then remove it from pan.  Next, toss in your garlic & onions for a minute before adding the egg.  Scramble the egg a bit and push to the side of the pan.  Next come the noodles (already half-cooked)!  Toss them around a little bit to get them cooking, then add everything else to the pan and toss until all is cooked through.  Serve a mound of your noodle mixture on a plate with a sprinkling of peanuts, cilantro leaves, a wedge of lime, and….. ta-da!  You have Pad Thai.  Easy, right?

From there, most restaurants and shops will supply you with ingredients at your table with which you can customize your meal.  Want more heat?  Add some dried chili flakes.  Want more tang?  Add a dash of chili vinegar.  Want more sweet?  Add a bit of sugar.  And, if it’s just not salty enough for you, they always have plenty of fish sauce on hand for you to use.

If you’d like a clear recipe with ingredient amounts and step-by-step directions (so YOU can try it at home!), check out Alton Brown’s recipe by clicking here.


November 16, 2010 - Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand


  1. Tasty stuff. Wish y’all got to try the pad thai at the party we had. It was pretty special and I’m not really a pad thai fan. Anyway, keep it up and we should get you to guest post on ETF sometime too.

    Comment by Dwight | November 16, 2010 | Reply

    • I wish we could have been there, too! Timing, sadly, just didn’t work out. Oh, and I’d love to do a guest post sometime. 🙂

      Comment by Sara | November 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. mmmmmm… making me hungry! I need to try to really make it… just so many ingredients!

    Comment by April | November 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. chicken mine please, no fish sauce, no lime…never had a tamarind, i bet i’d be allergic…ugh! thank you and good-nite! :o)

    Comment by mom | November 17, 2010 | Reply

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