We made pad thai for dinner tonight. We started trying to make pad thai at home after moving and our favorite thai place didn't make pad thai the way our previous thai place made it. At first I tried a Thai Kitchen kit, blech. Then I found A Taste of Thai pad thai sauce packet–this made pad thai at home so easy. I figured that the key ingredient was the tamarind. Beware, I've seen a number of products with tomato sauce and no tamarind.
Eventually our stand-by supermarket stopped carrying the pad thai packet and I had to search out a recipe on my own. Here two resources that I've found most helpful:
pad thai recipe from Kasma Loha-unchit, I also recommend checking out this site more, there is good information on ingredients and brands
egullet forum thread on pad thai
A trip to my favorite international market and I had the necessary odd ingredients: tamarind concentrate (so much easier than the chunk of tamarind I had to buy tonight), fish sauce and palm sugar (now I just use regular sugar, haven't noticed a big difference myself). We don't use shrimp (or preserved radish, though I'd like to try it if I find it). The first time we made this it took a long time. Since then we've pared down prep to fit inside the noodle soaking time (we like wide noodles that take 30 minutes of soaking) and it just takes a few minutes more after that. I almost have the sauce recipe memorized. Almost. Now I just need to find a new international market (darn move).
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