What is Pad Thai? An explainer and easy Pad Thai recipe.

If you’ve been to a Thai restaurant, chances are someone at your table has ordered Pad Thai.

It’s a beloved noodle dish that’s popular for its tasty combination of rice noodles, vegetables, peanuts and prawns, tofu, chicken or pork, all stir-fried in a sweet, fishy sauce.

What is Pad Thai, exactly?

Pad Thai is street-food from Thailand that’s considered one of the Asian country’s national dishes. But it’s also become popular the world over. The word “pad” means “stir-fried” in Thai.

The dish is thought to date back to World War II, when rice shortages meant the government promoted eating rice noodles as an alternative, where flour and water bulk out the rice. They took the traditional method of stir-frying noodles from China, and gave it a Thai-style twist with Thai flavourings such as tamarind, palm sugar and chillies.

Traditionally, it’s made with prawns and tofu, but today recipes often include pork and chicken.

While most ingredients in Pad Thai are fairly common, tamarind is an important part of the dish’s sauce that people may not be familiar with.

Tamarind is a fruit with a sweet and sour flavour that can be bought from most Asian grocers, but you can easily pick up tamarind paste or puree from Coles or Woolworths.


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An authentic-tasting Pad Thai recipe

This recipe comes courtesy of food-lover Rachel, who blogs about her cooking on blog Rachel Cooks Thai. You can check out the original post here.

Serves 1


Pad Thai sauce

1 Tbs tamarind paste (see instructions below)
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs palm sugar
1 Tbs white sugar

Pad Thai noodles

1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp shallots, chopped
1 tsp salted radish, chopped
1/4 cup fried tofu, sliced into small rectangular pieces
3-4 medium-sized shrimp (prawns), peeled and deveined
4 Tbs pad Thai sauce
1 Tbs shrimp paste in soya bean oil
1 egg
2 oz (56 grams) dry medium size rice noodles
1/4 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup garlic chives, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces
2 tsp roasted peanuts, chopped

lime slices, roasted chilli flakes, white sugar as accompaniments


To make Pad Thai sauce:

  1. Make tamarind paste by mixing 1/4 cup of wet tamarind with 1/2 cup of hot water. Mash between your fingers until the tamarind forms a paste and then strain to get all seeds and veins out.
  2. Mix the tamarind paste with the other sauce ingredients and heat over medium heat until everything is dissolved.

To make Pad Thai noodles:

  1. Prepare your pad Thai sauce and all other ingredients. Once you start cooking, you won’t have time to wash, chop, or mix anything.
  2. Heat a pot of water on medium heat until small bubbles appear on the bottom. Blanch the rice noodles in this water for 6 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a wok to medium-high heat. Add a bit of oil and wait until it’s hot. Then add the garlic, shallots, and salted radish and saute until garlic is golden brown.
  4. Add the fried tofu and shrimp and saute until they are cooked through. By the time they’re done, your rice noodles should also be done.
  5. Drain the rice noodles and immediately put into the wok. Add the pad Thai sauce and shrimp paste in soya bean oil and stir to incorporate.
  6. Move everything to the side of the wok and scramble an egg on the other side. Once it’s done, incorporate it with the noodles.
  7. Add the bean sprouts, garlic chives, and peanuts. Stir fry for just a few seconds more until the chives are barely wilted. Take off the heat immediately.
  8. Serve with lime slices, roasted chilli flakes, and white sugar on the side. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from David Thompson’s Thai Street Food and Chez Pim.