Would you believe that even though I was born in China and now currently live in the United States that my first language was Thai? I’m sure you’re asking, “Well how did that happen?”
I moved to Thailand at the age of two and lived there for eight years. Thus the memories of my childhood are infused with all things Thai and Thailand. There are however plenty of gaps in my memory.
For instance I don’t remember seeing or eating any Pad Thai!
When I moved to New York City I found amidst the massive scope of cultural cuisines, Thai cuisine was a New York City staple, and with it one of the favorites of Thai cuisine, Pad Thai.
Since I don’t recall seeing Pad Thai in Thailand when I was a child, I wondered, is it really authentic Thai food, or is it American Thai food—an Americanization of Thai cuisine?
On a quest for clarity on Pad Thai and its origins, I went to see my friend Jack Wachara Nittayarot. Jack is the owner of two Thai restaurants in New York City: Soup Thai on the Upper East Side and Tom & Yum on the Upper West Side.
I asked Jack, “Is Pad Thai really an authentic Thai food or is it an American Thai dish?” Jack confirmed, “Pad Thai is an authentic Thai dish.” Not only is it an authentic Thai dish, but it is also recognized as one of Thailand’s national dishes. It has been one of the most popular street foods since World War II and is sold it in every night market.
So, what is Pad Thai? Well, Pad Thai generally consists of rice noodles, eggs, brown tofu, leeks, peanuts, and bean sprouts. It is flavored with tamarind, plum sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and red chili pepper, and served with shrimp, chicken, or beef. The ideal Pad Thai has a balance of sweet, sour, and salt in its composition.
Let’s give it a try, and learn to make Pad Thai!
1 tablespoon of tamarind sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of plum sugar
1/2 tablespoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar
A pinch of salt
Pad Thai Noodles and Other Ingredients:
4 oz of dry rice noodles
1/3 cup of bean sprouts
1 tablespoon of brown tofu, diced
2 whole eggs
1 oz of leek
2 tablespoons of ground peanuts
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder or red paprika
1 tablespoon of preserved radish
1 lemon wedge
1.Soak the rice noodles in water for about 30 minutes at room temperature to make the noodles soft.
2.Make the sauce: In a medium sized mixing bowl add tamarind sauce, plum sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and salt and mix with a whisk until everything is well blended together. Put aside.
3.Season a wok with oil, preserved radish, brown tofu, and then stir fry until the aroma begins to permeate the air. Crack your eggs into the wok, add shrimp, and stir until the shrimp turn a pinkish color. Add the noodles and a 1/5 of a cup of water, and sauté the noodles till soft. Add the sauce and sauté everything until the noodles have fully absorbed the sauce. Then add the ground peanuts, leak, bean sprouts and chili powder, and mix. Transfer the noodles onto a plate and garnish with a lemon wedge, and hopefully it will bring back your memories and mine.