Pad Thai With Shrimp 2.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

May 22, 2019

This easier-than-you-think recipe is a ringer for the Thai takeout staple. With chewy rice noodles folded into a sweet-tart sauce, it's an irresistible dish that also happens to be easy to adapt to your taste (see the VARIATIONS, below). The recipe comes from chef-restaurateur Nongkran Daks, who famously beat the marquee chef of "Throwdown With Bobby Flay" in a 2009 pad thai battle.

If specialty Asian ingredients are hard to come by, fear not. We tested the recipe without the preserved radish and dried shrimp and substituted brown sugar for palm sugar. While the flavor wasn't quite as well rounded in savory depth, it was still quite good.

You may find that this recipe is spicier than your typical pad thai. Feel free to reduce or omit the amount of crushed red pepper flakes.

Make Ahead: You will have leftover pad thai sauce, which Daks recommends making a day in advance. It can be refrigerated or frozen for up to several months. The rice noodles need to soak in cold water at room temperature for an hour.

Where to Buy: Preserved radish, dried shrimp and pressed tofu are available at Asian markets. So is tamarind pulp, which you can use to make your own tamarind juice (soak 3 tablespoons of compressed tamarind pulp in 1 cup of warm water for 20 minutes and then strain). Tamarind pulp is also available at Indian markets. Or use tamarind concentrate, as long as you buy the Thai product that is thinner and lighter in color than the thick, black concentrate more often found at Indian markets.


Servings:
2 - 3

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 2-3 servings

Ingredients
  • For the sauce
  • 1 cup tamarind juice or tamarind concentrate (see headnote)
  • 1 cup palm sugar (may substitute light brown sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • For the dish
  • 4 ounces medium-width dried rice noodles (about 1/8 inch)
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 fresh or frozen/defrosted shrimp (21- to 25-count), deveined; peeled with tails on, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, finely chopped (optional; see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet preserved radish (see headnote)
  • 3 1/2 ounces red pressed tofu, sliced thin into 1/2-inch-long pieces (see headnote; optional)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions or garlic chives
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Directions

For the sauce: Combine the tamarind concentrate, palm sugar, water, fish sauce and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the mixture is syrupy and darker in color. As it reduces, you may need to further reduce the heat to low to prevent it from scorching.

Meanwhile, start the noodles for the dish: Place them in a bowl and cover with cold water; soak for 1 hour (at room temperature).

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry just until golden brown. Add the fresh/defrosted shrimp, stirring constantly until they are opaque and just cooked through, for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate (the garlic stays in the pan).

Drain the noodles well, then add them to the same skillet you used to cook the shrimp. They will try to stick together, so separate them as you stir, adding a splash or two of water. Then add 5 tablespoons of the pad thai sauce, stirring until everything is thoroughly incorporated. The noodles should be soft and moist. Add the dried shrimp, if using, the preserved radish and the pressed tofu, if using. Return the cooked shrimp to the skillet and toss to incorporate.

Use a spatula to clear a space at the center of the pan for frying the eggs. If the pan seems dry, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Pour in the eggs, then use the spatula to cover them with the noodles in the pan. Once the eggs are set, stir the noodles until everything is well mixed. This should result in cooked bits of eggs, both whites and yolk, throughout the noodle mixture.

Add the crushed red pepper flakes (to taste), peanuts, scallions or garlic chives and half the bean sprouts. Toss to incorporate and just heat through, then transfer to a platter. Serve right away, with the remaining bean spouts and the lime wedges.

VARIATIONS: If you prefer pork, substitute 1 cup of thinly sliced lean meat for the shrimp. For a vegetarian version, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce, and use 1/2 cup diced tofu instead of the shrimp.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from Nongkran Daks, chef-owner of Thai Basil in Chantilly, Va.

Tested by Becky Krystal.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.