Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai

Seventy-five years ago, when Phibun decided to give Thailand’s culture a makeover by decree, pad Thai was a recipe that had yet to be introduced into the country’s cuisine. Rice with chili paste, leaves, and salt were the staple, subsistence food at the time, and Thai people bought meals from Chinese food vendors.

The exact origins of pad Thai remain disputed to this day. According to some, Plaek Phibunsongkhram announced a competition to create a new, national dish. Phibun’s son, however, went on record to say that his family prepared the dish well before Phibun ever actually made it government policy, but could not recall who specifically was responsible for its initial creation.

The dish’s roots are Chinese, and its full name is kway teow phat Thai. Translated from a Chinese dialect called Hokkein, kway teow means rice noodles. The entire name means stir-fried rice noodles Thai-style. Noodles and stir-frying are predominantly Chinese, and it was likely immigration that introduced the practice to Siam. Flavors like tamarind, palm sugar, and chilies were the Thai’s subsequent influence on the dish over time.

By publicizing the pad Thai recipe, Phibun turned one potential take on stir-fried noodles into a national dish. It was his belief that by doing so, pad Thai would improve the diet of a people who primarily lived off of rice, and that cooking pad Thai in clean pans would improve national hygiene.

More than anything, it was Phibun’s hope to unify the country by promoting a uniquely Thai dish. Despite its Chinese origins, pad Thai stood out greatly from the variety of wet or dry noodle dishes sold by Chinese vendors. It was part of Phibun’s nation-building strategy to develop “Thai-ness” and impose a “Thai Great Tradition.”

Within several years, vendors selling pad Thai filled Thailand’s streets. Phibun’s son called it “Thailand’s first fast food.”

In summary, the popularization of pad Thai was the work of a military dictator who survived multiple coups, World War II, and who believed that his political future, as well as the future of his country, were both at stake.

And now, without further ado, I give you this American’s take on a Chinese influenced Thai tradition. I put a lot of thought into this recipe, and took special care to ensure that I kept its ingredients as authentic as possible (no peanut butter or ketchup). I hope that you enjoy the final product as much as I did!

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 23 minutes, approximately

Total Time: 1 hour, approximately

Serves: 4


  • 14 ounces stir-fry rice noodles (I used the Thai Kitchen brand located in the “International Foods” section of the grocery store)

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • ¼ cup fish sauce

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

  • ¼ cup coconut milk

  • 5 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil

  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 cup diced firm tofu

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 cup bean sprouts

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • ¼ cup diced shallots

  • 4 fresh jalapenos, seeded and diced

  • ¼ cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped (I actually used walnuts)

  • ½ cup diagonally sliced green onions

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Place noodles in a large pot or bowl and cover with the boiling water. Allow noodles to soak for 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are soft but firm. Drain and rinse under cold, running water for 30 seconds. Drain well and set aside.

rice noodles

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, sriracha, and coconut milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

pad thai sauce

In a wok, heat ½ tablespoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the egg, stirring constantly until set. Set aside in small bowl.

Next, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the garlic, shallots, and jalapeno and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the shallots and jalapeno are tender, stirring frequently.

shallot mixture

In the wok, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the shrimp and cook until pink, stirring constantly. Add the cooked shallot mixture, tofu, mushrooms, and bean sprouts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms and sprouts are tender.


Add the reserved noodles and egg and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour the sauce mixture into the wok and toss until well distributed. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to steam and simmer. Add the peanuts and green onions and cook an additional minute.

Remove the wok from the heat and season with the lime juice and cilantro. Serve hot.


Shrimp Pad Thai

Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai


Shrimp Pad Thai Noodles

Shrimp pad thaiServes 4

Prep. Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

This dish may also be prepared with meat or mixed seafood instead of shrimp. Simply substitute 10 oz. (300 g) mixed seafood, chicken, pork, or beef.


  • 4 Tbsp. oil
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 12 to 16 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz. (250 g) dried rice stick noodles (kway teow, or hofun), soaked in warm water until soft and drained
  • 1 tsp. dried chili flakes or ground red pepper
  • 4 cups (7 oz./200 g) bean sprouts
  • 1 small bunch garlic chives (gu cai), cut into lengths
  • 4 Tbsp. ground roasted peanuts
  • 2 limes, halved, to serve


  • 1 Tbsp. tamarind pulp soaked in 2 Tbsp. water, mashed and strained to obtain the juice
  • 2 Tbsp. shaved palm sugar or dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • Pinch of salt

  1. Combine all the Sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir-fry for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until pink. Reduce the heat and add the eggs. Mix well and add the rice noodles. Increase the heat and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the Sauce ingredients and chili flakes. Mix well and stir-fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add half the bean sprouts and chives and stir-fry for another 30 seconds before removing from the heat.
  3. Serve hot on individual plates, garnished with the remaining fresh bean sprouts and chives, peanuts and limes.

Red Curry with Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas

A nice balance of heat and sweet plays out in this bright curry. The more I make this one, the more I love it. I substituted 1 lb of lobster claw meat recently, and can honestly say that it only made the recipe that much better. 

Red Curry

Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp. jarred or homemade red curry paste
  • 15-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth, fish broth, or water
  • 1 lb. shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled and deveined 
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas (7 to 8 oz.), trimmed
  • 5 wild lime leaves, torn or cut into quarters (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. palm sugar or light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • A handful of fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves
  • Hot cooked rice or rice noodles, for serving 
  • 1 long, slender fresh red chile (such as red jalapeno or serrano), thinly slices on the diagonal (optional) 

*I used 5 hot green finger peppers to add some additional heat to this dish.

  1. Heat the oil in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until a bit of curry paste just sizzles when added to the pan. Add all the curry paste and cook, pressing and stirring with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to soften the pasta and mix it in with the oil, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to develop.
  3. Increase the heat to medium high and let the curry come to a strong boil. Add the shrimp, sugar snap peas, and half the lime leaves (if using), and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
  4. Tear the basil leaves in half (or quarters if they are large), and stir them into the curry, along with the remaining lime leaves (if using). Let rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Serve hot or warm with rice or noodles, garnished with the chile slices (if using).

Substitutions are quicker: In recipes like these, traditional ingredients like palm sugar and Thai basil can be replaced with easier-to-find items like light brown sugar and Italian basil. Wild lime leaves have no good substitution, though, so leave them out if you can’t find them.