This is a terrific Pad Thai recipe that truly stacks up to great Thai restaurants yet is totally doable for every home cook with just a trip to the supermarket. You’re going to love it!
Whether it’s a late night Thai fix in Surry Hills after an evening out with friends, or Thai takeout night, you’d be hard pressed to find an Aussie who hasn’t tried Pad Thai.
It is the single dish by which every Thai restaurant is measured. I was trying to find the “best” Thai restaurant in my area just last week and it brought me much amusement that Pad Thai was the baseline of a favourable or unfavourable rating for almost every review!
WHAT IS PAD THAI??
Probably the most well known Thai dish outside of Thailand, Pad Thai is a noodle stir fry with a sweet-savoury-sour sauce scattered with crushed peanuts. It’s made with thin, flat rice noodles, and almost always has bean sprouts, garlic chives, scrambled egg, firm tofu and a protein – the most popular being chicken or prawns/shrimp.
On the streets of Thailand, you’ll find authentic Pad Thai has a distinct fishy/prawny “funk” (which sounds thoroughly unappetising but is actually completely addictive and the very essence of true Thai street food, and I really hope you didn’t misread the word “funk”). Refer to this Prawn/Shrimp Pad Thai recipe I shared from Spice I Am Thai restaurant:
On the other end of the spectrum, a quick Google is all it takes to find a myriad of basic westernised versions which are typically made with not much more than something sour (vinegar, lime juice), soy sauce and sugar.
This will not taste like any Pad Thai you’ve had from a restaurant. Not even that takeout place in the foodcourt of your local mall. Sorry to disappoint!
THIS PAD THAI RECIPE
This recipe I’m sharing today lies in the middle between hardcore authentic Pad Thai and very basic westernised Pad Thai recipes. It truly stacks up to your favourite Thai takeout – except less oily (restaurant Pad Thai is notoriously oily) – but you will not need to hunt in the dark corners of an Asian store to find the ingredients.
It’s an everyday Pad Thai recipe I specifically created so I can make it whenever I want just by popping into my local supermarket!
PAD THAI SAUCE
The heart and soul of Pad Thai sauce is Tamarind which is a dark, sour pod that grows on a tree that is used in South East Asian cooking, like this Malaysian Beef Rendang.
Authentic Pad Thai is made with Tamarind pulp which comes in a block (size of a soap bar) which is then soaked in hot water, then pressed through a sieve to make tamarind puree.
To make life easy, I use ready made tamarind puree which is sold at supermarkets here in Australia. 🙌🏻🙌🏻 Or Asian stores, obviously (and it’s cheaper).
This is the sour + a bit of flavour + thickener for the Pad Thai Sauce. Nothing else unique in the sauce – just fish sauce, oyster sauce and brown sugar.
Don’t worry if you can’t find Tamarind Puree! I have a cheeky but astonishingly great sub instead….
THE CHEEKY SUB FOR TAMARIND
I kid you not. You will be amazed how good this tastes.
It took a few goes to get the flavour balance right – you can’t do an outright substitution of ketchup for tamarind given one is sweet and the other sour.
But by adjusting the other ingredients, ketchup brings layers of flavour, sweetness (so sugar is reduced), and acts as the sauce thickener (similar consistency to tamarind) so you can get a similar flavour in the end result.
I dare to say that some people might even prefer the ketchup version to the Tamarind version as it might be more familiar to them because there’s no doubt there are some suburban Thai restaurants that use ketchup in their Pad Thai!
Here’s a comparison of the two. The ketchup version is slightly redder, and obviously does taste different but it’s remarkably good and certainly still a terrific Pad Thai fix!
If you’ve ever suffered broken rice noodles in stir fries (🙋🏻♀️🙋🏻♀️🙋🏻♀️), take note of the photo below and instructions in the recipe!!!
Rice noodles are gluten free so they don’t have the starch that holds together pasta and wheat based noodles. Which means they are more fragile and prone to breaking when tossed enthusiastically in the pan.
It sounds thoroughly not in the spirit of Thai cooking to recommend Chang’s rice noodles rather than the actual Thai brand rice noodles (Erawan Rice Sticks – red pack below) that are sold at supermarkets, but I must.
Chang’s are less prone to breaking and require just 5 minutes of soaking in hot water.
With the Erawan Rice Sticks, if prepared per the packet (boiled for 6 – 8 minutes), they disintegrate within seconds of hitting the pan. If soaked in boiling water, they last longer in the pan but still break.
The only way to use Erawan is to soak in room temperature water for around 40 minutes and be quite careful when tossing, and also use a touch more oil.
Don’t worry, directions for both are in the recipe. 🙂
But if you can, get Chang’s. Far less effort and stress!
OTHER STUFF IN PAD THAI
Don’t worry, I’m not going to put up a photo of every single ingredient in Pad Thai! Just the ones you might not be so familiar with. 🙂
Here are two more ingredients that are very Pad Thai-centric: firm tofu and garlic chives.
You’ll find firm tofu at the supermarket too – go for the firmest plain tofu you can find (read the label, give the packet a squeeze to check). Don’t even think about trying this with soft tofu – it will just totally disintegrate!
Garlic chives are the big brother of normal chives. They taste like garlicky chives (I know, you’re shocked right? 😂) and are shaped like blades of grass. These are also sold at supermarkets here in Australia (with the other fresh herbs).
I cannot believe how I’ve just written about Pad Thai without barely pausing for a breathe.
I’m going to stop here before I run out of space for the recipe. 😂
So – meet your new favourite Pad Thai recipe. The one you will make over and over again, any night of the week, just by popping into Woolies on the way home. WHOOOOT!!!!! – Nagi xx
Here's an everyday Pad Thai recipe that tastes just as good as takeout and you'll find everything you need at the supermarket. This is the recipe I make most of the time. See here for a truly authentic Pad Thai recipe, if that's what you're after. I use chicken here but feel free to switch with any protein, even prawns/shrimp. Recipe video below.
- 125 g / 4oz Chang's Pad Thai dried rice sticks (Note 1)
- 1 1/2 tbsp tamarind puree (Note 2)
- 3 tbsp (packed) brown sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (Note 3)
- 1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce (Note 4)
- 2 - 3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
- 1/2 onion , sliced (brown, yellow)
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 150 g/5oz chicken breast (or thigh) , thinly sliced
- 2 eggs , lightly whisked
- 1 1/2 cups of beansprouts
- 1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 3cm / 1 1/4" batons (see photo)
- 1/4 cup garlic chives , cut into 3cm / 1 1/4" pieces
- 1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts
- Lime wedges (essential)
- Ground chilli or cayenne pepper (optional)
- More beansprouts
Place noodles in a large bowl, pour over plenty of boiling water. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander and quickly rinse under cold water. Don't leave them sitting around for more than 5 - 10 minutes.
Mix Sauce in small bowl.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large non stick pan (or well seasoned skillet) over high heat. Add garlic and onion, cook for 30 seconds.
Add chicken and cook for 1 1/2 minutes until mostly cooked through.
Push to one side of the pan, pour egg in on the other side. Scramble using the wooden spoon (add touch of extra oil if pan is too dry), then mix into chicken.
Add bean sprouts, tofu, noodles then Sauce.
Toss gently for about 1 1/2 minutes until Sauce is absorbed by the noodles.
Add garlic chives and half the peanuts. Toss through quickly then remove from heat.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with remaining peanuts and lime wedges on the side, with a sprinkle of chilli and a handful of extra beansprouts on the side if desired (this is the Thai way!). Squeeze over lime juice to taste before eating.
1. I've tried every rice stick sold at supermarkets in Australia. Chang's is the best - it's less prone to breaking when it's tossed in the pan. See photo in post. If you can't find Chang's, use another that is 2 - 3 mm / 0.1 " thick. Avoid wider rice noodles, they are more prone to breaking.
If using the the Erawan brand rice noodles (see photo in post), soak in room temp tap water for 40 - 45 minutes until noodles are silky but still a touch firm. DO NOT follow the packet directions to boil - they disintegrate in the pan!
125g doesn't sound like much noodles but they expand when soaked.
2. Tamarind is the heart and soul of Pad Thai. The authentic version starts with tamarind pulp which needs to be soaked then strained. Puree is sold in a jar at supermarkets (Asian section), far easier! It's a scoopable soft paste (see video).
It can be labelled as Tamarind Puree, Concentrate or Paste. In Australia it's sold at Woolies, Coles, Harris Farms (Asian section) as well as Asian stores. There's a few different ones on Amazon US - here is the cheapest one.
Use leftovers for Beef Rendang !
KETCHUP SUBSTITUTE if you can't find tamarind. Use this for the Pad Thai Sauce instead of ingredients listed above:
1 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp dark soy sauce*, 2 tbsp rice vinegar (or 1 tbsp white vinegar).
See in post for explanation, and cynics, don't judge until you've tried this! It's remarkably good and quite close to the base Pad Thai recipe!:
* This is mainly for colour, so can be substituted with light or normal soy sauce and flavour will still be the same.
3. Can be substituted with light soy sauce though you will lose a bit of the flavour edge that fish sauce gives it.
4. Not in authentic Pad Thai but is essential for this everyday version.
5. Garlic chives look like blades of grass and taste like garlicky chives. If you can't find them, it's not a deal killer. Best to substitute with chopped shallots (aka green onion / scallions)/..
6. General note: I use a skillet here, I find it easier. But if you have a well seasoned wok, make it in that if you want!
7. Nutrition per serving, assuming 2 servings. The weight doesn't take into account the water absorbed by the noodles. I think it's closer to 350g / 12oz per serving. It's a generous serving!
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
Adjusting to his new life for the next few months. He does an excellent sad face.
I was supposed to fly out to the States on Saturday but I pushed my flight back to spend the weekend getting him settled at my mother’s house. He was supposed to stay with the Golden Retriever boarder, but a) I couldn’t burden her even though she was insisting; and b) he would be so sad watching all his friends leaping into the car for beach and park outings while he remained in his crate.
My mother’s house is perfect. He’s usually quite bored here 😂
Thank you for all the lovely messages, helpful tips and sharing your experiences. I was truly touched – made me weepy actually! N xx