Pad Thai is possibly the most well known of all thai street foods.
It’s a stir-fry of rice noodles, beansprouts, prawns or chicken and egg, topped with a sprinkling of chopped roasted peanuts and coriander.
This prawn version from the woks of life adds a flavorsome fish stock made from the heads and shells of the prawns which is then used as a base for the mildly sweet and sour Pad Thai sauce. The sourness of the sauce comes from the addition of tamarind paste but if that is difficult to find you can use rice vinegar as a substitute. You can also use shredded leek in place of the garlic chives.
PRAWN PAD THAI
225 g dried pad Thai noodles (flat rice noodles)
225 g raw prawns (with the heads and shells on)
4 tablespoons oil, divided
160 ml water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
85 g extra firm tofu, cut into thin rectangles
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons salted preserved Chinese turnip ,washed in warm water and julienned (optional)
large bunch Chinese garlic chives, cut in 2½ cm pieces
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
100 g mung bean sprouts
2 tablespoon roasted peanuts, finely chopped
a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Soak the pad thai noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes, and drain in a colander. If the noodles are in really long strands, you will want to cut them into 25-30 cm lengths, or you will end up with a huge noodle ball when cooking. Make sure the noodles are well drained before adding to the wok.
Remove the heads and shells from the prawns and collect them into a bowl. Wash and devein the prawns and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat until just smoking. Add the prawn heads and shells. Stir-fry until all of the shells are bright orange, and add the water. When liquid comes to a boil, press the heads with a metal spatula or a potato masher to bring out the flavor and colour. Simmer for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Strain the prawn stock (about 100 ml) into a bowl and discard the heads and shells. To the bowl of stock, add sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and white pepper. Mix well and set aside. Clean your wok.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in your wok over high heat and sear the prawns for 1 minute, remove them immediately after they’ve gone opaque and are a little golden at the edges, leaving any excess oil in the wok. Set the prawns aside.
Set the wok to medium high heat and add another tablespoon of oil. Spread the firm tofu in the wok in one layer, and sear on both sides until slightly browned (about 1 to 2 minutes). Next, add the shallots, garlic, preserved turnip (if using), and chives. Turn up the heat to high.
Add the noodles and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until all the ingredients are combined. Pour the tamarind-prawn sauce mixture over the noodles, and stir fry for 30 seconds or so. Push the noodles to one side of the wok to make way for the eggs.
Add two tablespoons of oil to the clear area of the wok. Crack the three eggs in, using your spatula to lightly beat them in the wok. Fold the eggs gently without completely scrambling them, and when they’re about 60% done, fold the noodles over the eggs.
Lastly, add the bean sprouts. Stir fry everything at high heat until the bean sprouts are just cooked (about 1 to 2 minutes, depending upon how hot your flame can get). Toss in the cooked prawns, and serve the prawn Pad Thai with crushed peanuts and coriander on top, if using.