Pad Thai is one of my favorite things to cook. It's not something to get into when you only have a few minutes, but it's really not as complicated as you might think. If you can cook, you can make pad thai. This easy pad thai recipe is adapted from one I found on a noodle box, but I'm also going to tell you the secret to making it taste great, which took me years to discover.
2 T coconut oil
2 or more cloves garlic, minced
8 oz raw chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces OR 1 lb baked tofu
1 C carrots, thinly sliced
1 C cabbage, thinly sliced
8 oz box flat rice noodles
4 T fish sauce or soy sauce
3 T lime juice
3 T sugar or honey
dash of hot sauce or pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 eggs (optional)
fresh cilantro, chopped
salted roast peanuts, crushed
bean sprouts (optional)
Put a pot of water on to boil, big enough to cook the noodles in.
Melt coconut oil in a large frying pan and saute garlic over high heat. Add chicken, if using, and cook for a few minutes. (If using baked tofu, wait until later.) Add carrots and cabbage. Stir occasionally and cook everything until the chicken pieces are cooked through. Turn down the heat if anything is burning too much, although I find that getting a bit of singe on the vegetables actually doesn't hurt this dish at all.
While you wait, mix up the sauce. I love that Thai food is usually seasoned with fish sauce rather than soy sauce, because along with the rice noodles that makes the food pretty low in common allergens. If you're vegetarian, though, soy sauce is a fine alternative. Traditional pad thai actually uses tamarind as a sour flavor, but lime is also a Thai flavor, and I don't miss the tamarind at all.
When the vegetables are is almost cooked, put the rice noodles in boiling water. Keep in mind that they only take about four minutes to cook.
Now, here is the secret. Add the sauce to the mixed up stuff now, and let it cook down for a few minutes while the noodles boil. You can save a little to add at the end if you're worried about anything ending up dry, but I really like the way the flavor cooks into the food if you add the sauce ahead of time. Add the baked tofu, too, if using.
Right before you take the noodles out of the water, crack two eggs (if using) into the frying pan and stir them up. Turn the heat off. Drain the noodles and mix them up with everything else. This is a lot of food, so I find that tossing the fried stuff into the noodle pot to mix actually works best.
Serve with plenty of garnishes. They're important! If you want, you can serve them all at the table and let everyone garnish their own plate. This recipe makes two huge restaurant-style portions, but you can definitely get away with feeding more people with moderate appetites.