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Authentic Pad Thai – Sauce and Stirfry

Updated: Dec 11, 2022


Do you love Thai food?


Want to make a restaurant-quality pad Thai?



In this post I will teach you how to make an authentic pad Thai (stirfry and sauce), how to make it nutritious, some cooking tips, and a few fun facts about Thai food.




Pad Thai Stirfry Demo




A little fun background info


For me in fact, this post is about 10 years in the making.


I learned and adapted this recipe from a distinguished Thai Chef in Bangkok, who learned it from a Michelin star restaurant he worked at. While this recipe does have a fair amount of added sugar, albeit less than the original, I will provide some tips and tricks that can make your pad Thai, a healthier version.


"Pad Thai uses a lot of fresh, natural, whole foods. Meaning it can be delicious with the right tips and tricks"

I have been trying to Perfect a Pad Thai recipe for the past several years, ever since the first time I experienced Thai food in a restaurant in East Berlin. I really just love Thai food and the flavours of South East Asia in general, which I explored in an earlier post.


For this post, here is just a quick background on Thai food influences and the Thai chef who taught me this incredible recipe. Then we will get into the main elements, and the recipes for a stunning pad Thai sauce and pad Thai stirfry.


This recipe was adapted from a Michelin star Thai restaurant in Thailand


Thai Food Basics


Thai food is all about balancing the flavours of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and in some cases, bitter.


While the influences of Thai food go to many different countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Malaysia, these influences helped shape many Thai curries.


Stir-fried dishes such as pad Thai, Pad Krapow, and Pad See-ew have more to do with the influence of China. Pad Thai in fact originates rather recently (in the 1940’s).


Thailand has found a way to incorporate all these different cuisines. But adding their own unique touch over generations, and by using a wealth of locally grown ingredients abundant in their tropical climate.



About Chef Poom and the Recipe


I had the pleasure from learning how to make an authentic Pad Thai recipe by Chef Poom at his restaurant ‘Paka’ in Bangkok, Thailand.


Chef Poom learned how to make Thai food from his grandmother, and his family recipe book dating back over 200 years ago. Most recently he was a finalist on Thailand's Top Chef reality TV series.


When he told me that he had a Pad Thai recipe that was adapted from a Michelin restaurant. He used to work in I knew that my search for the perfect Pad Thai after over 10 years was probably coming to its penultimate conclusion. The final step would be trying to replicate it!


And boy am I happy with the result!


Pad Thai Basics


Disclaimer: Many pad Thai variations exist, so this section could be subjective. But I feel okay knowing it’s backed by Chef Poom, and has it’s origins from a Michelin star Thai restaurant.


Okay, so here it is!


The basis of a good pad Thai sauce is the use of Tamarind, fish sauce and palm sugar. I think most will agree.


However, some of the tricks here include ingredients like pickled sweet radish and a homemade puree of a non-spicy, long red Thai chili. This, and a few other little tips and tricks you'll see – Make this recipe really quite special.


A big mistake is not using traditional ingredients like tamarind fruit or a palm sugar substitute in the sauce.

Just like in many Thai dishes, the secret is to try to make a perfect combination of sweet sour, salty, and spicy, and maybe a bit of bitter that comes out in the final rich caramelized sauce. This recipe does all those things.


Pad Thai Mistakes


· Not using traditional ingredients like palm sugar and tamarind.

· Not caramelizing the sugar in the making of the sauce.

· Overcooking or undercooking the noodles.

· Adding in vegetables such as carrot or cabbage (however, from a nutrition perspective, I have no issue adding extra veggies)



Is Pad Thai nutritious?


Well, it can be. I would be remiss if I didn't speak a little bit about the nutrition of this particular dish. It is high in protein, and does use a lot of fantastic nutritious ingredients, but the key her is balance, and moderation.


This recipe uses three, count it, three, vegetarian protein sources in peanut, egg, and tofu!

Being a dietitian. I do sometimes find it hard to promote Thai food because a lot of street food uses a lot of sugar, salt, and oil.


That said, traditional Thai food uses so much fresh, local ingredients, and Thai people usually eat a combination of foods, which provides a much more balanced nutrition profile. As a tourist devouring as much street food as one can, it can be hard to see that Thai food culture has many nutritious aspects, at least traditionally.


I will also say that this recipe adaptation uses less oil, and I do not use pork and shrimp fat, as is done in Chef Poom's original recipe.


Pad Thai however, does in fact contain a lot of nutritious ingredients.


For example, tamarind is a nutrition powerhouse, providing lots of fibre, B-vitamins, and minerals such as iron and magnesium.


Thai red chili (in this case the long, less spicy kind), are packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, as well as minerals, like potassium and magnesium.


Shallots, to which the sauce recipe uses a lot, is a great source of antioxidants.


With such a variety of ingredients, Pad Thai has the potential to be a balanced source of protein, carbs, fat, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.

And then we have protein. This recipe uses three, count it, three, vegetarian protein sources in peanut, egg, and tofu. Tofu in particular has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects, good for heart health. Peanut has additional fiber and healthy fats, whereas eggs are a complete protein source. Current Canadian guidelines and emerging evidence supports the inclusion of plant-based and vegetarian proteins in your diet.


Overall, the meal has the potential to be a balanced source of protein, carbs, and fat. It’s the proportions within the recipe, and foods you pair to your meal that make the difference in nutrition.


Find your balance using the following tips!



Nutrition Boosting Tips for the Stirfry


When it comes to the pad Thai noodle, we're usually using a white rice noodle. However, you could totally use a brown rice noodle if you want to boost the fiber!


The other nutrition advantage here for celiac or gluten-intolerant, is that this recipe is gluten free start to finish!


Other ways to boost the fibre would be to add some extra vegetables in it. Extra bean sprouts bean and garlic chives for example.


If you wanted to boost the protein content, you could simply add more crushed peanut, tofu, and/or egg. If you eat meat, then fry up some chicken into the stir-fry.


Have a reasonable portion, but also add in other whole foods to complete the meal. Balance, variety, and moderation are key!

While it's not common to make half your plate vegetables with a dish like Pad Thai, I would recommend not making the pad Thai the only focus of the meal. Have a reasonable portion, but add in foods like these:


· Side salad (Ex. Thai papaya salad, or any salad you prefer).

· Side vegetable (Ex. Thai morning glory, or any steamed/raw vegetable you prefer)

· A fruit to your plate or have a Greek yogurt berry bowl for dessert.

Provide some balance and variety to that dish!

Nutrition Tips for the Tamarind Sauce


Use less sugar than you see in the recipe and video. I actually had to use twice the amount of sugar in order to balance the sourness from the tamarind. So in reducing sugar, I would also recommend reducing tamarind extract in equal ratio to compensate for it’s sourness.


Another option is to simply use less sauce in your stirfry!


Here you can focus on the beautiful, fresh ingredients such as bean sprouts, garlic chives, fresh ground chili and peanut to carry the flavour.

Final Notes


So the disclaimer in the recipes here are that I did create this pad thai in the traditional way as taught by Chef Poom here in Bangkok Thailand. However, to increase the nutrition you could, in addition to the tips above, use brown rice noodles, less sugar in the sauce, increase the amount of vegetarian or non-meat sources of protein, or serve it with a salad, or add a fruit as a dessert. Or just add extra bean sprouts and garlic chives. Lots of options for you to play around with.


If you have any questions about nutrition here, or in general, get in touch with me! I'm happy to help you meet your nutrition, as well as your flavour needs!

One thing for sure is that when you have control of the stir fry making it at home, you have a much higher chance of making it healthy and finding that perfect balance that you want that you will not find if you tried ordering this in a restaurant or street food or fast food place.



Pad Thai Sauce Demo






Recipes



Pad Thai Tamarind Sauce


Ingredients


Dried long red Thai chili (de-seeded - USE GLOVES!)

80 grams

Thai shallot

500 grams

Sweet pickled radish

250 grams

Tamarind extract (or concentrate)

Ratio of 800 ml water to 250 gram Tamarind fruit.

Palm sugar

700 grams

Fish sauce

250 milliliter

Chili or Sriracha sauce

100 ml

Vegetable oil

30 ml (reduced from 100ml in original recipe)

Optional ingredients

Paprika

5 grams

Vegetable stock powder

15 grams


Directions

1. Cut ends and remove the seeds from the Chiles soak until soft in boiling hot water. When the dried chilies have been soaking for 5 to 10 minutes puree and a blender or mash up in a mortar and pestle set aside.


2. Add Tamarind to boiling hot water and let stand 5 to 10 minutes followed by removing of the seeds and the stems of the fruit. Best to use a fork or two forks. Be careful, it's hot.


3. Peel and mince the shallots and sweet radish.


4. To a frying pan on medium heat, add shallot and fry until translucent and soft.


5. Add pureed/mashed chili paste from step 1 into the pan and fry (Can also add that ‘secret ingredient - sam-glur’ at this point, but this is optional). Fry for about two to three minutes.


6. Add palm sugar and caramelize until it reaches a dark caramel color.


7. Add remaining ingredients bracket Tamarind fish sauce and chili sauce.


8. Cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours on medium low heat, simmering until it reaches a dark rich red color.


9. Give it a taste see if it's the right mixture of sour and sweet. If too sour, add sugar. If too sweet, add water or more tamarind extract.



Pad Thai Stir-fry Recipe



Ingredients


Vegetable oil

1 tablespoon

Thai shallot

one piece

Pickled sweet radish

1 tbsp Diced

Firm tofu

100 grams

Vegetable oil

Two tablespoons (one for tofu, one for stir-fry)

Pad Thai sauce (see recipe above)

Three tablespoons

Bean sprouts

1/2 cup

Garlic chives

1/2 cup

Crushed peanut

1 teaspoon

Crushed red chili

1 teaspoon

Lime wedge

Cilantro (optional)


Directions

1. Soak rice noodles and add rice noodles to recipe soak rice noodles in lukewarm water for at least 10 minutes.


2. Prepare stir-fry ingredients (dice tofu, finely dice shallot and sweet radish, chop garlic chive, and wash bean sprouts).


3. Prepare garnish ingredients (crush peanut, chop garlic chive, wash and de-stem cilantro, set aside dry red chili powder).


4. Add 1 tbsp oil to a frying pan on high heat. Stir fry The Firm tofu and till it's slightly crispy and brown set aside.


5. Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and stir fry shallot and pickled red or pickled sweet radish.


6. Add pad Thai sauce to Frying Pan and add a little bit of hot water to create a sauce in the pan (Note: not too much water – test the noodles throughout stir-fry to see if you need more)


7. Add rice noodles to Frying Pan and mix together with sauce and start stir-frying.

8. OPTIONAL STEP – THE EGG.


  • Push pad tied to one side of the pan and crack one egg into the other half of the pen giving it a gentle mix and allowing it to coat the surface.

  • Once the egg begins to cook flip the noodles on to the egg. So that the Noodles are on top.

  • After 5 to 10 seconds of cooking on high heat start mixing the noodles and egg together breaking up the egg pieces into the noodle.


9. Test noodles to see if they are soft and chewy. If still hard, add a bit more water and/or sauce.


10. Add bean sprouts and half the garlic chives.


11. Turn off heat, and mix.


12. Add to plate and garnish. Add one sprig of garlic chive (chopped or unchopped), lime wedge, crushed peanut and crushed red chili.


13. Enjoy that beautiful pad Thai!




Do you have any tips for making a nutritious version of pad Thai?


Any questions about the recipe, Thai food, or nutrition?


Comment below, or contact me, Daniel, at



Daniel Neuman, RD MSc

Owner of Simplify Nutrition

Edmonton-based nutrition consulting and cooking classes

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