Recipes

crispy tofu pad thai

Like a lot of people who go way back in the land of food blogs, I learned how to make pad thai from Pim Techamuanvivit. Pim wrote Chez Pim for many years before moving onto make jams (still the best apricot I’ve ever had) and then, homesick for the food she missed from growing up in Bangkok and disappointed by the versions of Thai food she saw in American restaurants (and “the tyranny of peanut sauce”), opened her first restaurant, Kin Khao, in San Francisco in 2014. It received a Michelin star a year after it opened because why do anything mediocre?


what you'll need

But in 2007, she wrote a seminal post called Pad Thai For Beginners that I’ve read and reread so many times over the years, I’ve practically memorized it. As pad thai is one of the most popular street foods in Thailand, she encouraged us to approach it at home the way the street vendors do: the prep is already done, so you can finish it in a flash. First, she wants you to make the sauce in advance because the ingredients are not standardized — fish sauces and tamarind concentrates will vary in intensity between brands — and you’ll want to adjust as needed, not over a screaming hot pan while your noodles get soft. And she wants you to make extra because it keeps well, and then if your dish needs a little more oomph, you won’t have to run back to the fridge to measure more from bottles and jars. Finally, she wants us to never make more than two portions at once, which will lead to “clumps of oily, sticky noodles.” She explains that the textures and flavors of a proper pad thai “derive largely from the way the dish is cooked, that is to say its quick footloose dance in an ultra hot wok. That simply means you can’t do many servings at once.” This doesn’t mean you cannot feed a crowd, you simply prep as much as you’d need, but only cook a portion or two at a time.

ingredientspeanutscrispy tofucook garlic and shallot

So if I read this for the first time in 2007, why did it take me until 2018 to finally make it? Largely because the ingredients, depending on where you live, can be hard to get. While if it was simply a garnish here, you’d probably be fine without it, but something like tamarind isn’t a maybe ingredient in pad thai, it’s, in fact, one of the most essential flavors — providing the sour tang. Fish sauce is up there too (it makes things salty and nuanced). And, I’d argue, in descending order, bean sprouts (lightness and crunch), preserved radishes (a sweet/sour crunch), garlic chives, and palm sugar. And what took me so long to make it was trying to find a way to make peace with keeping the ingredients authentic* while finding swaps that might work if you’re a hundred miles from the nearest Thai grocery store.**

add the noodles and the liquidall cookedscramble an eggadd the tofu back, plus chives

Eventually, though, my hunger for a recipe I could make when I craved it, which is weekly, won, which brings us up to today. Below is a recipe I mashed together from Pim, the dozen videos I found on YouTube of street vendors making pad thai (a very dangerous thing to do on an empty stomach), from Leela Punyaratabandhu’s excellent Simple Thai Food. And below that are a collection of suggestions of ingredients swaps I’ve pulled from the web. My biggest change: Hearkening back to my vegetarian days, I’ve always ordered pad thai with tofu (instead of the more traditional shrimp, or less traditional pork or chicken), and it’s the only way I crave it now. Maybe I’ll convert you too.

crispy tofu pad thai

* The thing I noticed is that if you Google “pad thai recipe,” the first page of results has recipes that include fettuccine, bell peppers, peanut butter, honey, ketchup, napa cabbage, cilantro, butter, lemon, not to mention rice vinegar, soy sauce, Thai basil, mint, and more, which might sound closer to the region but aren’t actually typical in this. Does it matter? Does it matter that if I Googled it because I did, in fact, want to learn how to make it, that I’m unlikely to from these recipes? That maybe they’re delicious, but they’re not really pad thai? Of course, on this site, nary a recipe is devoutly aligned with the textbook version; I make changes based on personal taste, recipe ease, and more, and I do so here as well. But my roadmap, rules, have always been that I want to know the difference and to be able to talk about why I’m making the changes I have. It goes without saying that all of us can, and should, make the exact food we want to eat in the exact way that we want to make it, but also try to imagine how we might feel if someone told me they made our grandmother’s famous chicken soup recipe but they don’t use chicken or noodles and also changed all of the vegetables, they just call it our grandmother’s chicken soup. We’d say “wait, what?”

** I am not, and got almost everything I needed at Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco Street; don’t miss the famous five-fried-dumplings-for-a-dollar (now $1.25) next door, and then go to Columbus Park and humiliate yourself on the pull-up bars, and marvel that Five Points (of Gangs In New York and also historical fame) is but an unrecognizable speck, or at least that’s my routine.

Previously

One year ago: Granola Bark
Two years ago: Potato Pizza, Even Better and Carrot Tahini Muffins
Three years ago: Obsessively Good Avocado Cucumber Salad and Strawberry Rhubarb Soda Syrup
Four years ago: Dark Chocolate Macaroons and Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
Five years ago: Bee Sting Cake
Six years ago: Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
Seven years ago: Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart
Eight years ago: Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting, Tangy Spiced Brisket, andNew York Cheesecake
Nine years ago: Chocolate Caramel Crackers
Ten years ago: Chicken with Almonds and Green Olives, Shaker Lemon Pie and Spring Panzanella
Eleven years ago: The Tart Marg

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Sausage and Potato Roast with Arugula
1.5 Years Ago: Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams
2.5 Years Ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti
3.5 Years Ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies
4.5 Years Ago: Fudgy Chocolate Sheet Cake

Cripsy Tofu Pad Thai

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

  • 6 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu (not silken)
  • 5 ounces dried rice noodles (sticks), about 1/8-inch (3mm) wide
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, regular (not vegetarian) or vegetarian, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
  • A pinch or two Thai or other chile flakes or chili powder, or a shot of Sriracha
  • Vegetable, grapeseed or another neutral, high-heat cooking oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 small shallot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet preserved radish, grated or minced
  • 2 handfuls (about 1 cup, although it’s awkward to measure in cups) bean sprouts, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 garlic chives, or the green parts of 8 scallions or spring onions, cut into 2-inch pieces, divided
  • Garnishes
  • Additional Thai or other chile flakes or chili powder
  • Remaining garlic chives and bean sprouts
  • 2 large lime wedges
  • 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts, salted or unsalted

Prepare tofu: Drain the tofu, and place it on a few paper towels; place a few more towels over it. Place a heavy object—like a big frying pan over the tofu, and let it rest for 10 minutes (and up to 30, if you have the time), to press out as much excess liquid as you can. When you can’t wait any longer, cut it into 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes.

Prepare noodles: Meanwhile, place noodles in a large bowl; pour hot water over to cover. Don’t worry if they break a little; shorter noodles (even 6″ lengths) are common for pad thai. Let it soak for 10 minutes, after which they should be pliable but too al dente to enjoy without further cooking; longer soaks will turn the noodles mushy in the pan. Drain and set noodles aside.

Prepare the sauce: Stir together fish sauce, tamarind, brown sugar, and chili powder. Taste and adjust the flavor balance until it suits you, and it will almost certainly require some adjusting because ingredient intensity varies between brands. Ideally you’re looking for something salty followed by a mild sourness, a little sweetness, and a little lick of heat. You will add more heat and acidity at the end. Set this aside.

Crisp the tofu: Heat a large frying pan or a wok over high for a full minute, then add a tablespoon or two of oil and let this heat for a full minute too, and then add tofu cubes. Reduce heat to medium-high. Cook them until browned underneath, then use a thin spatula to turn them and cook some more, until all sides are golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels, and season while hot with a little salt and chili powder, to taste.

Cook the pad thai: Add another generous glug oil to the hot pan and, once very hot, cook garlic, shallots, and radishes for a minute, until they take on a little edge of color. Add noodles and sauce and cook until noodles absorb sauce, if needs longer to soften (you can use the edge of your spatula to try to cut them to get an idea if it’s still too firm), you can add 2 tablespoons water at a time until they’re fully cooked. You can break your noodles into shorter chunks, if you desire, with your spatula. Add half your bean sprouts and garlic chives (reserving the rest for garnishes) and toss to combine.

Push to the side, add crack your egg into empty part of pan. When halfway cooked, start scrambling, then mix into noodles. Add crispy tofu back to pan now, and toss to combine. Transfer to plate.

To finish: Around the rim, leave extra garnishes in a little piles. Squeeze lime juice over before eating (it really wakes it up).

Let’s talk ingredients:

Tamarind: This is the sticky brown acidic pulp from the pod of a tree of the pea family — it provides the signature faint sourness of pad thai. It comes in paste, and concentrate; I used the latter. Paste is the most common. To use it, reconstitute 1 part of the paste in 2 parts of water, and stir until combined. Typically, people add water to tamarind concentrate as well to use it in recipes, but I’m having us add water to the pan as needed to cook the noodles instead. Some people don’t like the intensity of tamarind. Pim says that if this is you, you use less and add white vinegar. Other swaps I’ve seen suggested online: a mixture of lime juice and brown sugar; a dab of ketchup (look, I’m just reporting here!) plus lime juice or plain vinegar.

Using other proteins: Almost all pad thai, even the most common with shrimp, has some tofu in it, usually a couple of tablespoons pressed tofu that comes in small blocks, which you can find at many Asian grocery stores. Here I’m calling for firm or extra-firm, which come in water and are easier to find, and making it the star of the show. If you’d like to use shrimp here instead, I’d estimate 6 medium fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, per serving, and you can par-cook it with the garlic, shallot, and radish in the beginning. Don’t fully cook it, it will finish with the noodles and sauce over the next few minutes. If you’d like to use chicken or pork, I’d estimate 2 ounces, chopped in rough chunks, per serving, and cook is as you would the shrimp. Want to use none of the above? An extra egg might give your pad thai all the protein you wish for. Finally, quite often, the egg is cooked along with the shrimp in the beginning but I prefer mine added closer to the end so it’s a bit more present.

Eggs: Are optional in pad thai. In Thailand, they’ll ask you when you order it whether or not you want it. Sometimes it is scrambled in, other times a paper-thin omelet is poured made and the pad thai is wrapped inside it, like a crepe. I’ll save that for Pad Thai for Intermediates.

Palm sugar: Is the standard sweetener in pad thai, not brown sugar, but on this, I defaulted to what was already in my pantry. I think coconut sugar could be a good swap too. Palm sugar often comes in semi-solid blocks; you’ll want to scrape some off and warm it in the microwave or over another heat and it will loosen. For pad thai sauce, cooks will often melt the palm sugar in a pan and add the other sauce ingredients, just to warm them until liquefied. For palm sugar, you’ll want to use a bit more for the same level of sweetness; I’d use 3 teaspoons for every 2 here, but of course you’ll adjust this to taste too. Finally, palm sugar these days can be purchased in granulated form.

Fish sauce: Is salty and a little funky, and is the magic ingredient is so many of our favorite dishes. Between brands and even countries where its manufactured, saltiness and funkiness vary a lot. Vietnamese fish sauce is usually considered sweeter/less salty than Thai. Red Boat is one of the most popular; I had MegaChef and Squid brands around — the latter is probably the strongest/saltiest I tried. I haven’t tested it out, but vegetarian fish sauce is available. Here is a brand with good reviews; it sounds like you’ll want to use more to get the same intensity.

Sweet preserved radish: This provides a unique chewy sour/salty sweet flavor throughout in slightly crunchy bits I really enjoy it here, but I do think your pad thai can still taste good without it, you just might find you need a little more of the other sweet ingredients, such as tamarind and palm or brown sugar.

Shallots: I only spotted these in a minority of the recipes I perused, but made mine with and without them, and liked them here. I felt that the cooked shallot + pad thai sauce faintly reminded me of the preserved radish flavor, too, so definitely worth including if you can’t find the radishes. If you don’t have a shallot and are using the green part of scallions instead of garlic chives, might you use the white parts as you’d use the shallot here? Oh, I like the way you think.

Bean sprouts: Are crunchy and fantastic here. If you can’t find or get them, I bet shredded white cabbage or very thin juliennes of napa cabbage might provide a similarly refreshing crunch. I’d barely cook them.

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121 comments on crispy tofu pad thai

  1. Deanna

    Ive been on a Thai food kick lately, thanks to the Night+Market cookbook, but I’ve mostly been making Pad See Ew. I love pad Thai though, so I’ll being giving this a shot soon.

  2. Bella Ben-Shach

    I’ve been wanting to make pad thai for years, but have been unwilling to compromise on authentic flavors while being too intimidated by the ingredients. But if Deb can muster the courage and give it a go – so can I!! Thank you for this!

  3. hicjacetmelilla

    Agh I’ve been to that dumpling place! It was early September 2009. I remember doing the whole tourist thing around NYC and telling my husband, “Be on the lookout for a very pregnant, dark haired woman. Because it might be SmittenKitchen and I want to say HI”. Then we came back and you posted J was here!

  4. Rima

    Gosh, 5 or 6 years ago I found Pim’s blog and that particular Pad thai recipe hooked me on. I was a less experienced cook then and it was hard for me to get the taste of the sauce right. However I have followed her since then. Thank you for your version of easy Pad Thai. It will be tried and tested.

  5. Marcia

    The dumpling place on Mosco Street is the best part of being on jury duty.
    My son heard it had closed because of (shhh) cooking in the back alley.
    Sure hope he’s wrong.

  6. kikieats

    Yum!

    If you’re looking for things to do with leftover preserved radish and Chinese chives (besides cooking them into more Pad Thai!) — I use preserved radish diced up, cooked down with a bunch of sliced scallions, soy sauce, sugar and enough water to make a sauce consistency, then cooled for a delicious cold noodle topping. And minced Chinese chives are great in pork dumpling filling – a whole project on it’s own, I know.

  7. Amanda

    Deb! You speak my language! I have been making pad Thai based on an Annie Chun’s recipe, but it has always felt insufficient to me, and I will not touch any recipe that calls for Ketchup! You have saved me SO much time and effort as I have avoided making anything other than the recipe I have as I haven’t had the time to really research the ingredients.
    Thank you for your thoughtful, well-researched recipe and suggestions for substitutes! I have found every recipe of yours that I have used to be delicious and easy, and a huge time saver as I like to make things knowing how they are typically made and what value and cost/benefit there is in a variety of substitutions.

    You rock! I will continue to rely on your recipes!!

  8. Jennifer

    This is highly ironic, since we had (not-so-great) Pad Thai for dinner on Monday. Which means I’m now the proud owner of 11/12 of a package of tamerind goop, which has to be mixed with warm water and strained before being used, as it contains seeds’n’ fibers.

    On the other hand, we now have all the ingredients we’ll need to make more pad thai, which will be very soon!

  9. Years ago (prob 2008-ish) I found a recipe online somewhere that was the best/most authentic* pad thai recipe I’d found.

    Alas, years later I was never able to find it again to recreate my favourite meal ever, likely because, as you rightly pointed out, the first pages of google are populated with inauthentic versions. Stoked you’ve provided this option and linked to Pim’s as well. I will endeavour to make it this week!

    *having never been to Thailand at the time, I’m basing my opinion off some of my fav versions from local Thai restaurants. Unfortunately, these days, I now find most take-out versions also not to my liking since I’ve actually had the Thai street-food version.

  10. barb

    I am so excited to try this! I also prefer pad thai with tofu as it was like half of my diet when I was a vegetarian in college (the other half was Frosted Flakes). I crave pad thai all the time and always felt like homemade versions wouldn’t be very good. Thank you for the awesome post as usual!

  11. JP

    This looks so much like the Tofu Pad Thai from Cook’s Illustrated new cookbook Vegan for Everybody. We made it last night and the leftovers are in my fridge right now. We will have them tonight, but it won’t be nearly as good as day one because the tofu, while crispy when first fried, will not stay crispy after a night in the fridge. Still tasty though, I am sure.
    We did the lime juice/brown sugar swap for tamarind and it seemed like a good swap to us. Of course, ours was vegan, so no eggs, but I must say that even though I usually have shrimp in my Pad Thai, the tofu makes it very satisfying. Will have to try your version for sure. Thanks!

      1. JP

        When I had the book “Vegan for Everybody” from the library, I copied the recipe by hand and just wrote down fish sauce (likely they suggested vegan fish sauce, but I did not even notice). We are not vegan, we just want to eat healthier several times a week. So I just used our regular fish sauce which would not be appropriate for those eating strictly vegan, obviously. I do think the recipe needs something like fish sauce. With bland items like tofu, bean sprouts and rice noodles you need plenty of flavors to compensate. Good luck!

      2. Manisha

        In order to get the fish sauce taste, use powdered cumin + fenugreek powder. It is available in most Indian stores or can be at home. The taste is almost similar and they are both completely vegan.

      3. Ttrockwood

        I have bought very expensive (icky) vegan “fish sauce” from several brands but found this simple ATK recipe is my favorite so far, very easy- just need the dry shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce. (After straining keep the mushrooms! Slice thin and add to another dish)
        https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/vegan-fish-sauce#comments

        The tamarind is really important here, worth seeking out- whole foods and health food stores carry versions or order online. It keeps for a very very long time

    1. Mary

      Definitely “where is thumpkin?” I have a curly haired singer of my own (nearly the same age) and could almost immediately identify the song.

  12. Meg

    Awesome! I just moved back to the U.S. after living for 4 years in Bangkok and am also feeling the tyranny of the peanut sauce, as well as the bell pepper blues (never seen them in curries there; always see them in curries here). This looks very close to a recipe I learned at a cooking school I frequented in Bangkok. Thank you!

    1. Angie Scarlett-Newcomen

      They do the bell pepper in curry thing here in the UK, too, and most other dishes where I don’t recall them appearing in Thailand. :-( I hate the things! One of the MasterChef finalists the other week was Thai, and I pointed out to my husband that he didn’t use them in his dishes.

      1. deb

        Did you see white sugar as a condiment? I saw it show up in many videos as one of the optional finishes, spooned on at the end. One of the cooks said that sweet pad thai is very popular in Bangkok street food. I was completely unaware of this before.

        1. I had a Thai co-worker who added 3 heaping tablespoons of white sugar to her bowl of pho along with 1/2 the jar of chili garlic sauce. I guess sweet and hot is a flavor profile a lot of Thais like.

  13. Bridgit

    I’ve dregged tofu in cornstarch before frying and it gets a lovely, crispy outside. Might this be worth doing here? I’m looking forward to making this soon.

    1. Holly C

      That is what I did when I made this recipe! Also soaked the tofu in hot salt water for 15 minutes before cutting into cubes as that is supposed to help make it crispier. With those things combined, my tofu was so wonderfully crispy! It was my first time cooking tofu at home that I truly enjoyed.. most often when I make an attempt it ends up in the trash- but not this time!

  14. Allison

    Looks delicious. I want to try to make it! Is a “shot of sriracha” like a shot-glass full (seems like a lot?) or just a squirt?

  15. Cy

    I work right across the street from Kin Khao! Pricey, but delicious and very popular! I love pad Thai and love the idea of making it at home. Because SF is blessed with such a large Asian population, we are also home to many wonderful Asian restaurants( duh!). We also have amazing Asian markets here, so these ingredients are easy to find and inexpensive. My favorite cuisine in Vietnamese, but Thai runs a close second. Thanks for doing all the hard work for us Deb.

  16. Cheryl

    Delicious Deb. This from someone who doesn’t actually like pad Thai… but has a husband who adores it. Quick, easy and tasty. Thank you!

  17. Heather

    Thanks for this! Your explanations are always enlightening, I now feel as if i might be able to tackle this dish. I’ve been reading your blog for years,and continue to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate it!

  18. L

    I live in a place where tamarind paste is hard to come by but I can get pomegranate molasses and find that it makes a pretty decent substitute: still tangy in that fruity, slightly sweet way.

  19. Erica Green

    This looks delicious. I don’t have a wok and don’t yet have a cast iron fry pan – though it is on my list of things to add to my kitchen. I see that you use one option. I am typically cooking for a family of 4. What size do you suggest/what size did you use in these photos. Thanks!

  20. Elizabeth

    I spent a very long trip traveling from north to south in Thailand several years ago and one of our daily rituals was stopping at almost every little pad thai stand that we passed to try yet another street cook’s hand at it. We found that all were very similar in basic taste and texture with a few twists in extra ingredients (Eg. Shrimp,tofu,etc). It was pure heaven, every single paper plate of pad Thai was a winner (and that was a lot of paper plates). Then we took an amazing memorable cooking class in Chang Mai, in an open air kitchen along side the river, surrounded by the trees and the plants that supplied many of the ingredients we used that day. Pad thai was one of the several recipes we learned that day and when we returned home, it was a staple of our dinner table at least weekly for a long time.
    One thing I found out quickly upon returning to the States is that maybe 1% of restaurants actually know what good pad thai should be and even the Thai people who cook for Americans here seem to have forgotten. Pad Thai in restaurants is almost always sweet (yuck!) and wet! Pad Thai should be dryish with just enough shiny moisture to keep the noodles from being a big sticky clump and definitely not sweet in.any.way. Or rather, there is a balance of subtle “sweet” and nutty-salty, maybe a sort of umami? American restaurant “Pad Thai” also almost always is missing several obvious ingredients like the egg or the peanuts or the bean sprouts. So sad that we can’t just order a plate of comforting delicious pad thai from any number of restaurants nearby but your post has reminded me that making it for myself is not that time consuming or difficult. And your recipe has come the closest to the one I learned in Thailand with the interesting addition of clove. Thank you!

  21. Brittany W.

    Grocery stores here sell the tamarind pods. Can I just buy one of those and try to take the pulp off instead of buying a whole container of tamarind pulp or concentrate? I’ve never worked with it before, so I have no idea if this is feasible or really what the people who buy the pods do with them. But I’d rather end up with a pod or two from the store than a packaged ingredient I won’t use for anything else. I’m really excited to see pad thai on SK. I tried it once years ago using an Alton Brown recipe, and it was terrible, though that was likely due to my cooking inexperience, not necessarily the recipe.

  22. Manisha

    Oh my god! Never in a 1000 yrs would I have thought of tamarind in Pad Thai!!!! Tamarind is a staple in South Indian food giving it a distinct sour/sweet taste (cant explain it right but brings back memories of grandma’s egg curry where boiled eggs are added to cooked tamarind/tomato paste with onion ginger garlic season. Sorry Deb. Didnt mean to post a cooking tip). Its like a Eureka moment for me! No wonder the pad thai I make at home doesnt taste the same as the one in South East Asia!!!!Still can’t get over the euphoria of pieces falling into place :D
    Weekend menu is kinda set now!!!

  23. Kates

    I love pad thai and am glad you broke it down here. I always thought it a bit intimidating to try at home. I also have a question about cookware. I just bought a cast iron skillet but have not yet used it and am on the hunt for recipes that would do well in it besides searing meat which is what I keep running into. Is this a cast iron skillet (not enamel coated) I see in your photos?

  24. I cannot wait to make this. I spent a couple of hours on Sunday night googling Thai food recipes was super disappointed by the American versions of classics. I looked up Thai food bloggers and couldn’t find anyone who made outstanding vegetarian recipes. Thank you so much for this wonderful post! It could not have come at a better time. I’d love it if you could also please make a gluten free, dairy free Thai veggie curry and GF DF Veggie basil fried rice? I’m trying to find the best versions of those recipes too. Thanks so much!

  25. phyllis

    Hi … would love to make Pim’s apricot jam, but cannot find a recipe, only jam to purchase… can you help?
    thanks
    Phyllis

    1. Krista

      I had the same issue with the sauce being very dark. I also found it overpoweringly flavorful, and thought I screwed something up. I used Tamicon brand

    2. Mary Beth Feldman

      Tamicon also. Sauce too tart. Noodles sticky. Pad Thai is, in my opinion, like sushi—— best left to the professionals. However, the chickens thought it was tasty.

  26. chocopie00

    Thank you for this recipe and your words in the first starred bullet. Now that kimchi has become more popular, it makes me really upset to see all the things marketed as kimchi at my local co-op – often labeled with bad fake-asian font and Korean flags – that have nothing to do with actual kimchi. I look forward to making your recipe!

  27. Bri

    Made this last night – it was great! Did not have tamarind, substituted equal parts lime juice and brown sugar. Did not have preserved radishes, went with 3 teaspoons brown sugar. Will absolutely make this again!

  28. RES

    Tofu lovers- at some point cooks illustrated told me to brine my tofu, and while it seems fussy I can tell you that we have promised ourselves never to skip the step again. The improvement in texture and also behavior (MUCH friendlier to deal with in a hot wok or pan) is worth it. Works with all tofu except silken (even the soft stuff, if you’re careful), and can in most cases can be done while you prep and cook the rest of the meal.

    The technique: boil water and salt it like you would to make pasta (i.e. a lot), and then turn it off and placed the tofu (sliced into planks about an inch thick, so 4 per block) into the water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined cutting board, put paper towels on top, squish a little with your hands, and leave it alone for 15 minutes. No need to weigh it down with anything. When the time is up (or you remember it’s still there, oops), cut into cubes and proceed with your preparation, though our favorite is to toss it in cornstarch with a little salt, cayenne, and ginger powder, and pan fry it.

  29. Breah

    I am going to make this tonight! Can’t wait. I hesitate buying the radishes as i never know what to do with the rest of the pack of them after using the couple of tablespoons. Does anyone else have tips on what else to use them in? OR how to store them and how long they last in the fridge or freezer??

    1. Ttrockwood

      Just repackage the preserved radishes in an airtight container and keep in the fridge, they last for a very very long time because they are basically like pickles. Don’t freeze, i think the texture would get mooshy once defrosted.

  30. Erika

    We’re moving. To a lighter, brighter home just a few doors down with ample space for two small creatures we benignly call “children”.

    My amazing new step-siblings are helping us move. Akin to asking someone to pick you up from the airport, this is BIG (but waaay bigger).

    How would the average person show thanks?
    Order a pizza and get a six pack? Um, no.

    So, I ask you the challenging question: what to feed a willing moving-mob to make them feel nourished and rewarded for such hard and noble labor, and make me feel so unstressed I could practically nap through the prep? Oh, and there’s one vegetarian.

    Deb, you’re on…

  31. Patricia bowen

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  32. Simone

    I decided to make this at the last minute, and couldn’t find tamarind paste, so I bought an order of samosas at an Indian restaurant and used the tamarind sauce that came with it. I replaced the tamarind paste 1:1 with the tamarind sauce but I might do it at 1.5x or 2x next time.

  33. I made the recipe last night. That was simply incredible, most of the ingredients are my favorite. Tofu always favorite for my sons, and the recipe doesn’t last long in my family. The instruction was so helpful for me. Thanks!

  34. Oanh

    I was so thrilled to find a Smitten Kitchen post citing a Chez Pim post!!! I actually also just *finally* returned to that long bookmarked 2007 post on pad thai THIS year, to great results. I went on a bit of a tofu pad thai bender with all the sauce I made! One shortcut I took was to bake the tofu instead of frying to save time and oil splatters. Toss in a neutral oil with some salt and bake at 400 F on a Silpat for about 25-30 minutes for crispy cubes! Not as air-y and light as fried but a lot less work.

    I saw a lot of questions in the comments regarding tamarind ‘paste’ that I thought I could maybe shed light on. Tamarind can come in a lot of forms, the most common being pods (most Southeast Asian or Indian stores), 1 lb blocks of pulp or ‘paste’ as Deb refers to in the post (this is tamarind pulp that has been deseeded; they are sold in rectangular blocks wrapped in plastic in Southeast Asian or Indian stores and sometimes in the ‘ethnic’ section of fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods), and potent tamarind concentrate in bottles (like the one Karen linked to in the comments) which is also confusingly called ‘paste’ by many.
    You’ll get slightly different ‘strengths’ of tamarind depending on which form you start with. Already-made, bottled concentrate is most convenient form, and also the most potent so if you’re using this, I’d suggest diluting this 1:1 (so for this recipe, try 1 T concentrate plus 1 T water instead of 2 T straight concentrate). If you are making your own concentrate from pulp as per Deb’s instructions (1 part pulp : 2 parts water), the 2 T will probably work just fine. Beware that even though the pulp is de-seeded, you will still have to strain out fibers from the pulp. Pods will yield a fresher more tamarind-y flavor but not as potent as from the pulp, and you also have to deal with seeds and pieces of pod.

    Not sure if it’s okay to post links to other sites in the comments (I defer to Deb on this!) but this video shows how to work with tamarind pulp if you haven’t done so before (and also, it’s a GREAT recipe for tamarind chutney!): http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/tamarind-chutney/

    1. Holly C

      Thanks for this info! I used 2T of tamarind concentrate (the nearly-black, thick, sticky stuff) for the recipe and it turned out to be *very* flavourful and intense, but not overwhelmingly so. I also did not use any water in the pan as my noodles were nearly cooked when then were added so there was no need. Perhaps if I had added some water to the pan (or the sauce) the flavours would have been slightly more balanced.

      1. Hillary

        I am making this tomorrow night and bout the “paste” at Whole Foods as that is all they had. Any recommendation on how to treat the paste?

        Thanks, Hillary

    2. Thanks for all this. My market had the pods, and I decided to make concentrate from that. Never going to do that again. It took forever and I wasted so much that didn’t strain.

      I was wondering, why can’t I just scrape the tamarind off the pod with my finger and use it directly? Why do I have to make a paste or pulp at all?

  35. Win! A Pad Thai that does not have unachievable ingredients for Montana! The recipes with “Lemongrass, Thai Basil, and Curry Leaves”, or whatever, are so remote, that will never happen!

    But, this actually has ingredients that I can find here! Pad Thai!

  36. Risa

    Deb, you are a gem! Thank you for acknowledging all the very “non-pad thai” pad thai recipes out there. Having grown up in Thailand, pad thai is a weirdly sensitive topic for me, and it bugs the hell out of me that so many people who love “pad thai” seem to think it’s just a noodle stirfry, instead of a dish with a very specific flavor profile. I am all for freestyling in the kitchen, but if a food blogger is going to peddle a “pad thai” recipe made with a peanut sauce, should it really be called “pad thai” at all? In Thailand, the only place you’ll ever find peanut sauce is as a dip for satay (which is originally Malay/Indonesian).

  37. Elle

    Made it today for lunch ant it was really good.
    I added shrimps since my daughters like them.
    I usually let the tofu soak in the sauce before I fry it and that’s what I’m going to do next time since without it, we felt it was bland.

    1. Bill

      I loved the result, but I agree with Elle about the tofu being too bland. Next time, I might toss the cubes in 1tsp soy sauce + 1tsp dry sherry before frying. Also, (new to rice noodles), I’ll use more hot water and stir the noodles to prevent any from gluing themselves together.

  38. Ttrockwood

    I loved her blog!! And have also read that amazing post soooo many times. I haven’t made it in a while, but i need to fix that!
    It’s one of those recipes that make tofu skeptics and haters love it :))
    I love Bangkok grocery!! I stock up on all the coconut milk and various curry pastes that often blow my head off. Oh, and those crunchy fried garlic chips that are good on anything.

    FYI- Uncle Boon’s Sister in soho has the only pad thai worth ordering in manhattan, i get the vegetarian version but it’s actually vegan.

  39. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I always order this at our local Vietnamese restaurant and have made it a time or two. I can’t wait to try your version! Great leftover potential.

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  41. Breah

    This was delicious and authentic!! Closest recipe ive found to get me the true taste of Pad Thai ive looked for. The only thing i found was how long the rice noodles seemed to take to cook once i began stirfrying them, so next time i ill either let them sit in boiling hot water for the ten minutes OR increase the time to 15 minutes in the hot water bath. Thank you for the informative recipe! :)

  42. I noticed you used a cast iron skillet instead of a wok? Do you need a wok for stir frying? Do you have to do anything different on a skillet?

    Also, I have tamarind pods. I’ve googled but I can’t find an explanation for why I just can’t scrape off the tamarind from one or two and use them directly?

  43. Liz

    This. Was. AMAZING. With some adjustments to sauce proportions and the addition of some shrimp, I just found a fast way to make my favorite takeout indulgence at home. So, this is all I eat now for the rest of time forever.

  44. Hillary

    This was an epic fail for me. Which isn’t typical with all of the many Smitten Kitchen recipes that are normally perfection. I think the Tamarind amount is really hard in the sauce. I used Tamarind “paste” from Whole Foods which was a nice dark brown thick liquid and I mixed it with 1:1 ratio of warm water. But I wasn’t sure if the Tamarind concentrate amount in the ingredient list was the diluted version or not and how much to use? My sauce was very dark. I ended up having to add many more noodles to balance out the fact that I had so much sauce and it was so dark. As a result, I cooked the whole dish for way too long and the noodles were more like mush. There was nothing quick about it for me. Anyway, it was a difficult dish that required 3 trips to the grocery stores for the various ingredients and did not work out for me. I probably won’t try again.

  45. reshmaadwar

    “..fish sauces and tamarind concentrates will vary in intensity between brands — and you’ll want to adjust as needed, not over a screaming hot pan while your noodles get soft..”
    This is EXACTLY what happened to me the first time I ever made Pad Thai (which is why it was also the last!). I am so used to Indian tamarind paste that the one I bought at Whole Foods was terribly weak/disappointing and I had to improvise while my poor noodles were getting all soggy.
    Thank you (and Pim) for the spot-on advice to make the sauce in advance! Makes absolute sense!

  46. Lauren

    This was great. Pad Thai is really not easy. I have made it before a few years ago. You really need to understand the flavors in the sauce, I think you explained that well and I tasted it a few times before. Im quite familiar with using tamarind so that helped.
    I put almost boiling water over my noodles and I think overbooked them a bit so would watch that next time. I rinsed then with cold water.
    My tofu fell apart, was too soft (it said firm on the box) but didn’t matter just let it get crispy and when all mixed together didn’t matter.
    You really need a hot hot pan for this and need to work quickly.
    I used lodge cast iron pan cooking on gas, don’t have a wok. It worked well. Had never heard of preserved radish before, I found preserved turnip at Thai store and worked great. I think it’s the same thing.
    I thought this was delicious, not wet, good flavor, nice crispy bits. Will definitely make again. Thanks Deb!

  47. Belles

    This was amazing! So excited that you posted a pad thai recipe as it’s one of my favorite foods. I stopped at an Asian market near me to pick up the tamarind concentrate, fish sauce, preserved radish and rice noodles. When I was checking out the Asian woman asked me if I wanted kaffir lime leaves to add – she knew I was making pad thai. I said yes – such a great flavor!! Highly recommend. This dish turned out fantastic and pleased my mom, who is a HUGE pad thai person.

  48. Callie

    I never leave comments on the hundreds of recipes of yours that I have tried, but so loved this, so must! I didn’t have the radishes, but alas. I used pre-fried tofu from our local Phoenix Bean Co. in Chicago which made it easier by a step. Delish!

  49. Valerie

    I can’t eat tofu because it is soy. My family has a history of thyroid disease. Will this recipe work just as well with chicken?

  50. Dani

    Made this tonight and it was fantastic, next time i’ll probably bake the tofu and season them after baking a bit more as they were a tad bland for me but otherwise this was AMAZING and so easy. Side note: I couldn’t find sweet preserved radish so used sweet preserved turnip instead and it was delicious.

  51. Memasu

    This was just so delicious. I prepped everything in the afternoon and then it came together quickly when I made it for dinner. It will be fun to tinker with the amounts of the different elements of the sauce; I made it with Red Boat fish sauce and reconstituted tamarind paste and found it needed more sugar and heat than the recipe called for. I added shrimp too. Couldn’t find garlic chives but I found out later they are also called Chinese chives so I’ll look for those next time. I used the linked recipe from the article as a reference as well and it was helpful. This was so much more satisfying than the Thai takeout we usually get! Yum. Thank you for sharing!

  52. Emily

    WOW this is good! I made this last night and my fiancé said it’s the best pad thai he’s ever had… and I absolutely agree! Can’t wait to make this again!

  53. Bridgit

    I melded this recipe with 101cookbooks sunshine pad Thai (it involves turmeric in the noodle soaking water for a stunning yellow noodle). I made my first batch fairly small, and learned I should have done 3, not 2, but either way, it was the best pad Thai I’ve ever made. Thanks for taking the time to write all the notes.

  54. My friend and I have been trying to make the perfect pad Thai for months now. We tried your version last night, had one bite, then looked at each other and asked, “What now?” This was perfect and will now become our Friday night tradition.

  55. Thanks for the amazing recipe! I made this earlier this week and plan on making another batch today with the leftover ingredients. The noodles and sauce were delicious, but there’s one element I’m still trying to debug – the tofu pieces were so, so bland, as if they were never even in the vicinity of the sauce. I’m not sure if I just need to make more sauce, or if frying the tofu less would make it more absorbent, or if there are other tricks I should try. (I saw a couple comments mentioning brining the tofu or coating it in cornstarch before frying, but I wasn’t sure of the extent to which this was for flavor reasons vs. texture reasons.) Any suggestions?

  56. loolooeasy

    This looks so good! I’ve read that sprinkling cornstarch over the tofu before frying will make it really crispy but I’ve never tried it.

  57. This was great! I bought the special ingredients (the radish, the tamarind paste, the vegan fish sauce) on Amazon, because I didn’t want to count on my local Whole Foods and I am so glad I did.

    I also made this with some rice noodles and some “carrot noodles” (basically spiralized carrots) to cut the carbs and amp up the veggies further, and carrot noodles worked beautifully with this (just adding them in when I added in the partially-cooked rice noodles). It was delicious, fairly quick to come together, and pretty close to the flavor of takeout pad thai without feeling super heavy or oily.

  58. I have just come back home after 6 months of travelling across Southeast Asia. I have spent a month and half in Thailand and Pad Thai is one of my fav Thai dishes. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe – Pad Thai is tomorrow on my menu!

  59. Ryan

    This was very simple but very deliscious! I added more garlic and used chili paste sauce. I also ended up making it with lions mane instead of tofu. Incredible!
    Thanks for sharing

  60. Kimberly

    Deb, I’m confused by the instructions for soaking the noodles. What does “hot water” mean? Boiling or hot water from the tap?

  61. Petrina

    Thanks Deb, once again, you’ve nailed it! Delicious, not goopy, not too much overpowering sauce [like many recipes have]. It was light, multi-flavoured [tangy/sweet] and had all those great textures. You rock!

  62. Marianne

    Hi Deb, I’ve made this twice now. I cut the fish sauce in half the second time, but still perhaps I have extremely fishy fish sauce, it seems tsp. Measure might work better. Anyhow, you are still my favorite, your recipes are inspiring and delicious. If you have any advice for helping me get through perfecting the pad Thai, i’d Appreciate it!

  63. Katarina

    This was amazing. I had to hit my palm sugar block with a rolling pin to break it apart so the measurements weren’t exact and I played it a little fast and loose with the tamarind but it was delicious. Thank you for all of the detail. It really made this dish accessible.

  64. Lipstick Librarian

    I’ve followed the video by Jet Tila on YouTube where he demonstrates his recipe and method for making Pad Thai, and here is the link below:

    It’s taken me a couple of tries, but the end result is authentic and FABULOUS!

    I make a large vat of the Tamarind Sauce so that it is in my fridge at all times.

    Living in Vancouver BC with our enormous and diverse Asian population I am able to find most, if not all, the ingredients, including raw tamarind pods.

  65. Natalie

    This recipe was an 9/10 for me! I was able to easily find all of the ingredients at our local H-Mart. I really appreciated the notes on the ingredients below the recipe–those were really helpful as I had never cooked with tamarind concentrate or the preserved radishes before. My husband commented that the tofu was the best I had ever made–loved it with the bit of salt and chili powder, very snackable! After putting together the sauce, we did a taste-test and it was 100% spot on to the “pad thai taste.” The dish came together easily and quickly. Only thing I would change–more sauce. Ours was quite light (might have used too many noodles), but overall loved it. Will be making this again soon!

  66. Maggie

    We made this tonight. Didn’t love it. I think the problem was the cheap fish sauce we used. We bought the cheapest bottles and I think that was a mistake. I mixed up 3 or 4 batches of sauce, and my husband and I both said we wouldn’t eat it. I finally made another bowl of sauce, and reduced the fish sauce amount and made up the difference with soy sauce. This time it wasn’t bad, and we finished cooking and ate it. But it wasn’t the authentic taste we were craving. Lesson learned: ingredient quality matters! We might seek out a better brand fish sauce and try again. The recipe was very easy to follow, and the noodles came out the right texture.

  67. Mrs. Fakename

    WOAH. We used Tamicon brand tamarind concentrate and it was SUPER overpowering and way too tangy. The sauce turned out a dark brown color– it must have been much more concentrated than the brand used in the original recipe. Otherwise good stuff, if you dial that way down.