One of my favorite dinners to make is Pad Thai. Usually, I make it with shrimp or chicken - the authentic way - and top it off with heaps of fresh cilantro, roasted peanuts, and a slice of lime. You can never really get enough of the salty, sweet, nutty, and sour tang of a good Pad Thai.
But sometimes I find that it's hard to find everything I need to make this dish at home… That's why I'm sharing a few quick substitutes with you so you can make this Not-So Pad Thai for dinner any night of the week!
When I first learned how to make Pad Thai at home, I would go to the Super G Mart (international grocery store) in Greensboro right after I went to Aldi, Harris Teeter, and maybe one other place for all of my "regular" grocery items. It was an ordeal, and still can be. I love making Pad Thai in the traditional way, but sometimes don't have enough time to make it to every specialty store for the ingredients I need.
Although I could definitely find cilantro and peanuts at your average supermarket in the United States, only sometimes could I find the specific rice noodles I wanted with the correct width and cut. Rarely did I find mung beans, a Thai staple. Even when I did, sometimes they were already going bad and turning clear. (And there is truly nothing worse in Pad Thai than missing fresh mung bean sprouts.)
One night, I realized I had most of the ingredients around the house - an extra bag of rice noodles, some leftover jarred Pad-Thai sauce, eggs, shrimp, and cilantro. What was I missing? Mung beans, again.
If you're a fellow Pad Thai lover, you know when you get the craving that it's one you can't ignore. What did I find while rummaging around my kitchen looking for substitutes? A green bell pepper and a few leftover green beans.
Was this ideal? No, but it honestly works so well together!
If you haven't had authentic Pad Thai before, I really do encourage you to try it*. It's truly an experience with flavors like no other. Thai food in general is one of my top 3 favorite cuisines. Pad Thai will open doors for you into a whole new world of Thai food with the most incredible spices, textures, and flavors that you've just got to try if you haven't already.
But for those of us with an already solid appreciation, I give you this recipe for those nights you're left disappointed by the grocery store with soggy, (or entirely missing,) mung bean sprouts. I feel your pain, and it's one we don't have to endure any more.
To make this ahead, cook the eggs, shrimp, and vegetables, and then prep the peanuts, green onion, cilantro, and lime wedges for garnishing up to 1 day in advance. When you're getting ready to serve this, boil the noodles, warm the sauce, and toss everything together in 15-20 minutes.
This is easily a dish you can make for a crowd of 4-6 for dinner. It's one you can serve alone, or with a side of my Thai-style Slaw.
*If you're in the Piedmont Triad area, my 2 favorite places that make authentic Pad Thai are Singha II in High Point off of Penny Road & Highway 68, and Bangkok Café in Greensboro off of Holden Road.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 90 minutes
14 ounces (5mm) Pad Thai flat noodles, (also called Rice Stick)
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3 Eggs, scrambled
12 ounces Raw Shrimp
1 tablespoon Red Thai Curry Powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
10-12 ounces French Cut Green Beans, thinly sliced Green or Red Bell Pepper, and/or Mung Bean Sprouts
8-9 ounce jar of premade Pad Thai Sauce
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Fish Sauce, optional
3/4 cup Peanuts, chopped
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
2 whole Limes, sliced into quarters, optional & highly recommended for serving
Chili Garlic Sauce or Sriracha, optional for serving
Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the rice noodles in the boiling water according the instructions on the packaging, usually 7-8 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil to Medium-High in a large skillet with high sides or a wok. Once the oil is very hot, turn the heat down to Medium-Low and pour the scrambled eggs in. Quickly move the eggs around so they cook light and fluffy. Cook 2-3 minutes or until no longer runny. Set the eggs aside.
Cut, de-stem, and halve the green beans. Deseed and thinly slice the green pepper. Return the pan's heat to Medium and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cook the green beans and/or pepper slices for 6-7 minutes or until cooked through and brightly green.
Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into the pan. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp with salt, pepper, and red Thai curry powder, if using. Once the pan is hot again, cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side or until lightly pink. (They will be cooked again in the sauce, so they don't have to be fully pink.) Set the shrimp aside.
Add the Pad Thai sauce to the pan and let heat through. The sauce should become thinner as it heats through. Stir in the lime juice. If desired, add fish sauce to thin out the sauce more and add additional authentic flavor. Add in 1/2 cup the peanuts as the sauce lightly simmers.
Working quickly, toss in the noodles, beans, eggs and shrimp into the sauce. Using tongs, mix everything until thoroughly coated. (If your noodles are sticking together, pour a few tablespoons of water over them to loosen them up.) Turn the heat to Low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Once the noodles just start to absorb the sauce and turn reddish, plate the food and top with the remaining peanuts, cilantro, and a slice of lime. Serve with chili garlic sauce and/or sriracha on the side to add.