This easy homemade Pad Thai with shrimp only takes about 15 minutes to whip up. If you’ve made other staple Asian dishes before, you probably have the ingredients necessary for this recipe.
Pad Thai has a little bit of everything- crunchy vegetables, a sweet and tangy sauce, your choice of protein, and a squeeze of lime to brighten the dish.
What is Pad Thai?
Pad Thai is a stir-fry made of rice vermicelli noodles, protein of choice, vegetables, eggs, bean sprouts, and Pad Thai sauce. This is a staple Thai street food and a menu item you will see at any Thai restaurant around the world.
This is a recipe that can not only be made in under 30 minutes, but it’s also an affordable option at home. If you order shrimp Pad Thai for takeout, it will cost you somewhere around $15 by the time you get out the door. This recipe will only cost you about $5 for all of the ingredients and it will serve more people!
How to Make Pad Thai Sauce
The Pad Thai sauce is necessary for this recipe. It’s the signature that defines this dish. It’s created by combining fish sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, brown sugar and Tamarind. If you’re unable to find real Tamarind, you can substitute for rice vinegar instead. But in my opinion, there’s just nothing like the real thing.
Adding brown sugar adds a depth of flavor to the sauce that you can’t get with white sugar, but if white sugar is all you have on hand, then you can use the white sugar. Dark soy sauce is a sweeter denser version of regular soy sauce. If you don’t have that on hand, you can add more brown sugar and regular soy sauce to your mix to substitute for the dark soy sauce.
I also added about two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter for some additional flavor and sweetness. This is an optional step, but I feel that it really balanced out the flavors of the Pad Thai.
What is Tamarind?
Tamarind is a tropical fruit that is native to Africa. The tree produces bean-like pods with seeds surrounded by a green fibrous pulp. This pulp is very sour with a hint of citrus. As it ripens, it becomes more sweet and juicy.
This tamarind pulp is turned into a paste that is used in dishes in South and Southeast Asia, Mexico, Caribbean and the Middle East. The paste is a staple in many sauces, stews, curries, drinks and desserts. Tamarind paste is also one of the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce.
You will find tamarind in three forms when shopping for it:
- Raw pod: You will be able to find a raw pod of Tamarind in almost any Asian supermarket in the produce aisle. The pods can be opened to remove the tamarind. You will have to press the fruit to extract the juice.
- Pressed block: Blocks of tamarind are created by pressing the whole pod (shell and seed) together into a concentrated block.
- Concentrate: This form is the easiest to incorporate into dishes since all you have to do is open the container and add the tamarind concentrate or paste. This is the most processed form of tamarind and preservatives may be added.
When making a Thai dish that calls for tamarind paste, you can incorporate any of the above types of Tamarind. If you decide to use the raw pod or the pressed block, you will have to add some water and continue to process the tamarind to make a thick syrup to add to your sauce. It is easiest to use a tamarind concentrate from a jar, but these concentrated often have preservatives and stabilizers.
The pod shells and seeds will begin to separate from the syrup and you will be able to easily pick the pieces out. While the pod pieces and seeds are not poisonous, no one will want to eat them, and if added to your dish will make a bad accompaniment to the rest of the ingredients.
Don’t feel like cooking tonight? Try ordering takeout from a local Bay Area favorite, Shana Thai.
It’s also easy to make this a vegan or vegetarian option. Just substitute the protein for tofu and remove the eggs if you are opting for the vegan option.
Use a homemade fried tofu or tempeh if you want to make this a vegan entree instead. If you want to make this a vegan dish, sub out the oyster sauce and use soy sauce and brown sugar (for sweetness) instead.
If you want to use another meat protein instead of shrimp, or you are allergic to shellfish, replace the shrimp with chicken or beef instead. You can also opt for no protein and cook a separate protein on the side if you are serving guests.
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