The A To Z Of Southeast Asia – P

Pad Thai

Possibly the most well known of all Thai dishes, Pad Thai can be found on restaurant menus around the world and is also commonly found as street food throughout Thailand.

Main photo cooking Pad Thai on the Bangkok canals credit Jane Selomulyo on flickr

Many of the Pad Thai that you come across throughout the world bear only a passing resemblance to the dish you will find in Thailand. Sometimes this is because the chef has tried to modernise or westernise the recipe. Sometimes it is because key ingredients may not be available.

Generally made with dried rice noodles, stir-fried with egg and flavoured with tamarind, fish sauce, dried shrimp paste, palm sugar, red chilli and peanuts. It can be vegetarian or made with shellfish, fish or meat.

Pad Thai street food in Thailand credit K Tao on flickr


Finding the right ingredients can be a challenge and even when you think you have found them, they may be western style versions that do not taste or cook in the same way.

Tamarind for example is a key ingredient.

You can buy concentrated Tamarind in many supermarkets now. However this is very different to that used in authentic recipes and will significantly affect the taste.

Generally avoid the supermarket concentrates and sauces and buy from a specialist oriental supermarket, shop or online store.

We like Red Rickshaw.

You can even make your own paste from tamarind pulp or slabs. Look online for instructions on how to do this.

Other key ingredients include:

  • Palm sugar – available in more and more high street supermarkets but you can also get it from your oriental / Asian market. You can substitute light brown sugar if necessary
  • Fish sauce – Use the best quality fish sauce that you can get, you will taste the difference
  • Dried shrimp – shrimp paste is available in many supermarkets but try and get the dried shrimp that you will find in the fridge at your Asian / Oriental market.
  • Garlic chives – You can substitute green /salad onions instead but reduce the quantity
  • Peanuts – We think that the crunch and nuttiness of the peanut is important to a good Pad Thai. If you are allergic you could substitute cashews or pumpkin seeds.


  • 35g palm sugar
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water

Pad Thai

  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces (can substitute beef or prawns / shrimp)
  • 115g dry rice noodles, medium size
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, medium size, chopped or 2 teaspoons shrimp paste (adjust to taste)
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 300g bean sprouts
  • 30g roughly chopped shallots
  • 30g roughly chopped peanuts
  • 85g tofu cut into small pieces
  • 10 stems garlic chives cut into pieces or 3 green / salad onions cut into small pieces
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lime
  • Dried chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai credit Steve Snodgrass on flickr

We have done our best to find an authentic tasting recipe for Pad Thai.

This recipe has minimum preparation, around 30 minutes and cooks in just 10 minutes.

Soak the noodles for an hour in room temperature water and marinade chicken or beef in fish sauce for an hour prior to cooking.


  1. Add the palm sugar to a small pot and melt over medium heat. Once it is melting, keep stirring until it darkens in colour then add the other sauce ingredients. The sugar will harden – don’t worry about this.
  2. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then immediately turn off the heat. The sugar will slowly dissolve over the next few minutes as you prepare your other ingredients. Do not start cooking until the sugar has dissolved.

Cooking the Pad Thai

  1. Heat your wok over a medium heat and add a little oil.
  2. While you are waiting for it to heat up, drain the noodles and cut them in half, this will make them easier to toss and separate in your wok.
  3. Once the wok is hot, add your chicken, sear and stir until fully cooked. Remove from the wok and set aside
  4. If needed, add some more oil to the wok (to little oil will cause issues when cooking the noodles) and then add the tofu, garlic, shallots, dried shrimp, and chili flakes. Cook until the garlic starts to go golden brown.
  5. Turn the heat up to high and add the noodles and sauce. Stir and toss the ingredients until the sauce is absorbed.
  6. Once the sauce is absorbed and noodles are cooked, move them to one side of the pan, turn the heat back down to medium, add a little extra oil into the space and add the eggs.
  7. Break the yolks, put the noodles on top and cook for around 30 seconds, tossing the ingredients to coat the noodles
  8. Add the chicken back into the wok together with the bean sprouts, garlic chives and half of the peanuts. Turn off the heat and toss until well mixed.
  9. Serve immediately (do not allow to stand) with the rest of the peanuts on top and a lime wedge to serve. You can add additional chilli flakes to serve if you like some added spice.

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Published by flyingdogtravel

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