Pad thai is perhaps the best-known Thai dish in the world and it’s easy to see why: Serving up noodles, vegetables, a little bit of heat, some protein, and a sprinkling of peanuts, it’s light yet filling, with an unmistakable flavor that lets the noodles do the talking. Although many of the pad thais served in America have been westernized to have a less dimensional flavor, the real thing is very complex and quite spicy, with lettuce and vinegar to tone down the heat. Many people think of pad thai as a restaurant dish and don’t make it at home, but my version, spiked with a potent chile vinegar, gives you a reason to try your hand at it.
Servings: 4 - 6
For Pad Thai:
One eight-ounce package rice noodles
1 cup unsalted, roasted, skinless, peanuts roughly chopped
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
One 2-inch piece ginger peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 bird's-eye chiles seeds and ribs removed chopped
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. dried shrimp paste
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. tamarind paste
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup cubed firm tofu (1/2 inch cubes)
2 scallions white and light green parts chopped
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 head iceberg lettuce shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tbsp. Chile vinegar
1 lime cut into wedges
For Chile Vinegar:
2 Thai Chiles seeds and ribs removed thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1. In a medium pot, soak the rice noodles in 4 cups hot water until softened, about 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the peanuts and toast until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Whisk together the eggs. Heat a small nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook, stirring until cooking through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and chiles and sauté until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken and peanuts and sauté until the chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and fold in the rice noodles, cooked eggs, shrimp paste, fish sauce, tamarind paste, soy sauce, sugar, tofu, scallions, cilantro, and iceberg lettuce. Drizzle with the chile vinegar. Serve with the lime wedges.
For the Chile Vinegar:
1. Combine the chiles, vinegar, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.