I can't even remember my reason for picking pad thai as a New Year's Day tradition when I started making it three years ago – I suspect I was craving Thai food and looking for a unique way to ring in the new year. The first two years the results were lackluster, the third time was pretty good, and this year, my fourth time making it, it finally turned out great. This version does not have any tofu or meat, since I think it's best to stay simple when attempting a recipe that's already involved to begin with. Without further ado... here's how to make pad thai!
Vegetarian Pad Thai (makes 2 generous portions)
adapted from About.com
8 oz. dry Thai rice noodles (linguine width)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 chili (optional; I use 1/2 of a jalapeño, seeds removed, which was a medium spiciness for me)
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 egg, whisked
oil for stir-frying (I use avocado oil because of the high smoke point)
3/4 Tbsp tamarind paste, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
2 Tbsp fish sauce
4 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp chili sauce or Sriracha (again, this is optional)
3 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add noodles and reduce heat to low. Cook noodles until they are soft but still have a slight bite to them. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking. (It's crucial to cook the noodles the right amount. But if in doubt, err on the side of underdone, because you can add more liquid while stir frying to compensate. I boiled mine for 5-6 minutes.)
2. Prepare the sauce by thoroughly mixing the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. (A note about the sugar: it may seem like a lot, but the 4.5 tablespoons are needed to balance the tartness of the tamarind.) Set aside.
3. Heat a bit of oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic and chili for 30 seconds. Add the noodles and sauce. Stir fry for about 5-6 minutes, frequently moving around the noodles. (I find this easiest to do with chop sticks.) It will seem like there's a lot of liquid, but it will gradually be soaked up by the noodles. As soon as the liquid is absorbed, taste a noodle; if it's still too hard, add a little water or stock and continue cooking. The noodles will take on a "sticky" quality when ready.
4. Slightly reduce the heat, add the bean sprouts, and cook for another minute. Move the noodles aside, add the egg in the empty spot in the pan, let cook for a few seconds and then begin incorporating the egg in with the noodles. Cook another minute, then turn off the heat.
5. Divide the pad thai onto plates and top with cilantro, green onion, and peanuts. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top. Serve with steamed white rice, if desired.
If you try the recipe out, let me know how it goes! My recommendation would be to chop & measure out all of your ingredients first and have everything organized in the order they'll be used. The actual cooking part goes relatively quickly. Bon appétit!