not only is it possible to have great pad thai at home. it isn't very difficult. and, it tastes better than most restaurant pad thai. the ingredients may not be as familiar to you as they are for pasta or other stir fries, but once you wrap your head around this dish, it is really simple and fast. i've been making pad thai for 15 years and at first it seemed daunting, unfamiliar, now it is a piece of cake. like everything worth doing, it takes a bit of practice, but even your earliest efforts will be delicious. it is the pursuit of the ideal that keeps it interesting, you get to make it just the way you like it best.
first off you need to assemble the ingredients.
1 lb dried rice noodles, there are so many different varieties, i like linguine thin noodles best, make sure they are not expired, they don't last forever.
4 TBSP olive oil
1 egg for each serving
3/4 large shrimp per serving, shelled and deveined
2 shallots, minced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 cup minced cilantro stems
1 lb block medium firm tofu, cut into 1 inch pieces
2/3 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained
6 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths and then sliver lengthwise
1 TBSP finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup tamarind paste, easy to find in most stores now, make sure it has only two ingredients: tamarind and water no added sugar, etc.
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar or palm sugar or honey or agave nectar
1 TBSP rice vinegar
you will develop your own mix over time that is a little sweeter, tarter, or saltier than this one, to your preference
1 cup cilantro leaves
2 limes in wedges
1.you can only make two servings at one time in a wok, for additional servings, you have to wipe clean the wok and cook again, otherwise it will become unwieldy and possibly soggy. i find this kind of fun. i make two servings twice with these ingredients, so for each batch, use only half.
2. for the tamarind, sometimes in asian grocery stores it comes ready made in a jar, sometimes it is dried into a firm paste. if it is in a firm paste you must place it in some water and heat on the stove until it dissolves in the water, then let it cool and strain it. i actually prefer thai taste's jarred version here, i can only get it at an asian grocery store so i often use the other but i find i like the flavor a little better. you can also buy fresh tamarind and peel off the crisp outer shell and scrape the pulp off the seeds. then mix with water and heat over the stove until dissolved as for the dried paste.
3. step number one is make your seasoning sauce. cook the ingredients in a small pan until hot, taste to adust the tart, salty, sweet balance. i like mine on the tart side. it should have a rich complex flavor. this important flavoring sauce will go into the wok just after the noodles, it flavors them and keeps them moving in the pan rather than sticking to it.
4. soak the noodles in very hot water. different noodles soften at different rates, you have to get to know your brand of noodles. some are done soaking in 5 minutes, some need 20. usually around 10. after soaking they will not be soft enough to eat, but will be soft enough to stir fry. soft and pliable. drain and reserve.
5. chop the shallots, garlic, cilantro stems.
6. rinse the shrimp. cut the tofu. chop the scallions. chop the peanuts. cut the lime wedges. de-leaf the cilantro. get the eggs out of the fridge and assemble everything near the stove.
7. congratulations, now you are ready to begin.
heat your wok. once hot, add in the 2 or 3 TBSP olive oil, and half of the shallot, cilantro stems, garlic. cook on high heat for 2 minutes. add in half the cut tofu. cook for 2 minutes more. push to one side, now add in 2 eggs. make sure there is enough oil to keep them from sticking. scramble lightly. now add half the noodles stir briskly and add in half the seasoning sauce and the peanuts. stir to combine and cook until the noodles are tender enough to be delicious (varies according to noodle type anywhere from 1 minute to 6 minutes, check until done). once tender, push them aside a bit and add in the shrimp. cook for 1 minute and turn them over until they are light pink. now add the bean sprouts and scallions. toss to combine. taste. add in half the cilantro leaves and serve with a lime wedge and additional cilantro leaves.. now, repeat. go ahead and try this. it is a cooking adventure not to be missed. very filling, a little unusual, and delicious. love it.