Everyone who loves Thai food knows pad thai. It is probably the most famous Thai dish. Every cook makes it his/her way but if there are rules then here they are. A good pad thai is supposed to have shrimp, al dente noodles in sauce, and that sauce should excite the palate; it must be sweet, salty, sour, spicy. Pad thai textures must be firm and crunchy, which connotes freshness. Some cooks add dried shrimp, some add fresh shrimp, and some add both. Here is my version of pad thai, just the way I like it.
Pad Thai (makes 2 servings)
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onion
1/4 lb dried rice sticks (about 1/4 of a 454g package)
3/4 cup diced bean curd, preferably medium-soft
3 eggs, beaten
12 peeled, deveined fresh large shrimp, tails on
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (available at Asian supermarkets)
4 tablespoons tamarind paste (available at Asian supermarkets)
1/4 cup chopped chilies
1 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/2 lb bean sprouts
1/2 cup shopped coriander
1/4 cup thinly diced scallions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
1/2 lime cut into wedges
Soak noodles in warm water for at least one hour. Drain and set aside. In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil on high heat. Add noodles and stir fry for about 10 seconds to coat the noodles in oil. Add water until it sizzles. Continue turning the noodles until it changes from transparent to opaque. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the wok on high heat. Sauté garlic and shallots/onions until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook until just pink on both sides. Add the sauce. When it starts to sizzle and reduce, add bean curd. Turn gently. Pour egg all over. When the edges start to set, pull the eggs from the outside towards the center. Continue turning until the shrimp and bean curd are coated and heated through, and eggs are set. Return the noodles to the wok and turn to combine.
If desired, heat the bean sprouts before serving. Bring about an inch of water to boil in a skillet. Turn off the heat. Put in the bean sprouts and stir. Heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on your preference.
Serve at once with the prepared condiments.