Pad Thai with Shrimp
Across Bangkok, we tasted more than a dozen versions of pad Thai to understand the iconic noodle stir-fry and find a way to make the dish doable in American home kitchens, complete with its enticing spicy-sour-salty-sweet profile. Based on lessons from numerous Thai cooks, we developed a recipe that delivers fantastic results—perfectly balanced flavors and the layers of contrasting textures that define great pad Thai. Suwan Pimtatong, cook at Hot Shoppe Restaurant, showed us how to build complexity and umami richness without the use of dried shrimp, a common pad Thai ingredient that isn’t always easy to source in U.S. supermarkets. Additionally, we were able to achieve nuances of wok hei, or the hard-to-describe and even more difficult to attain (on a home cooktop) hints of smokiness that come from stir-frying in a wok over a raging-hot fire. The key is to add ingredients in batches to prevent the temperature of the wok from dropping precipitously. A few pointers for success: A 12- to 14-inch wok is essential, ideally one made of carbon steel that is well seasoned and conducts heat quickly. Use a neutral oil with a high smoke point; grapeseed or safflower is a good choice. Each time oil is heated in the empty wok, be sure it is smoking-hot before adding any ingredients. Use the cooking times as guidelines, don’t take them as scripture, as burner output and heat-conduction properties of woks can differ greatly. Finally, be sure to have all ingredients and equipment, including a serving dish, ready before you head to the stovetop. Once cooking begins, it demands your full attention and is done in a matter of minutes.
ounces ¼-inch-wide rice noodle sticks
tablespoons tamarind pulp
01Place the noodles in a large bowl and add hot water to cover (the water should feel hot to the touch, but should not be scalding). Let stand, stirring once or twice to separate any strands that are sticking together, for about 30 minutes; the noodles will become pliable but will not fully soften.
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