Phat Thai [Classic Thai Noodles]
Source: Victor Sodsook, True Thai
Serves: 2-3, more as appetizer or side
- 8 oz dried rice stick noodles, 1/8-inch wide
- 2 tbs dried shrimp (optional)
- 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled
- 4 tbs thai fish sauce
- 6 tbs distilled white vinegar
- 4 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs ketchup
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 8 cloves garlic, mashed or crushed or chopped
- 2 eggs
- 4-6 scallions, cut 1.5-inches
- up to 1/2 tbs Thai or Mexican chili powder or cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
- 1.5 c bean sprouts (optional)
- 1/3 c roasted peanuts, chopped fine
- 1 tsp Japanese sesame oil (optional)
Soak dried shrimp in warm water (if using), at least 30 minutes. When soft chop coarsely.
Soak rice sticks in warm water, 15-30 minutes (depending on how soft you want them). Drain.
Mix sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and ketchup in a medium bowl, stirring to dissolve sugar. Prepare everything for stir fry: garlic/dried shrimp (if using) on a plate, scallions on another, eggs broken and lightly scrambled in a small bowl.
Heat a large skillet until hot. Add oil. Add garlic prep and stir-fry until aromatic. (Remove chilis if you used but don't want to leave them in dish.) Add shrimp and toss until they start to turn pink. Add sauce and toss. Add rice sticks and toss. Cover for a couple minutes, toss, cover again, toss again until sauce is mostly absorbed. Push noodles to one side and pour eggs onto bare pan. Cook without stirring 15 seconds, then as the egg sets mix into noodles. Add scallions and chili powder (if using) and toss, cooking 1-2 minutes. If using, add bean sprouts and toss to warm them up (they add some crunch to the soft noodles). Add peanuts and sesame oil (if using), toss, and serve.
This is modified in several ways from Sodsook's recipe. I use more shrimp, where he only calls for 1/4 lb, supplemented by 1/4 lb pork or chicken (cut into shreds), and he optionally adds pressed bean curd and/or shredded salted radish. I cut the sugar down from 6 to 4 tbs -- if you use the chili powder you may want to kick it back up. I never add bean sprouts, but kept them in the recipe in case you want to. You could substitute firm tofu for the shrimp and/or meat. I also added the sesame oil, which as far as I know is never used in authentic Thai cuisine but adds an agreeably nutty taste and aroma.
You can substitute hot oil or hot bean paste for the chili/cayenne, in which case I would put it in with the garlic (and probably increase the sugar, depending on how hot you're aiming for). I only want a hint of heat, so what I usually do instead is to briefly fry a couple dried Chinese chilis with the garlic, then pick them out before adding the noodles.
Definitely get a high-quality fish sauce. I don't know that the difference between Thai and Vietnamese matters, but I like a brand called Red Boat.
I've made this with a 14 oz box of rice sticks, scaling the sauce up by 50% and adding a third egg. That seems to work out about right.
Note that this dish cooks really fast, so it is important to do and organize all the prep before you heat up the pan. It typically cooks up in about ten minutes, and I'm probably cooking it longer than I need to (I'm not much into al dente noodles). Even adding chicken or pork wouldn't add much to the cooking time, at least if you kept it all coarsely shredded. Moreover, the prep can easily be done in the half-hour or so the rice sticks are soaking, so from start to end this takes less than an hour.