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Gretchen's Table: Chicken and shrimp pad thai a family favorite

Gretchen's Table: Chicken and shrimp pad thai a family favorite


My kids always order the same dish when we go to a Thai restaurant — the stir-fried noodle dish known as pad thai.

Made with rice noodles, scrambled egg, bean sprouts and a protein like chicken, tofu or shrimp tossed in a flavorful sweet-and-sour sauce, it hits all the right notes. It’s slurpy, tangy, a little bit funky (it includes fish sauce) and thanks to a garnish of chopped peanuts, a little bit crunchy.

This might seem like a difficult recipe because it has a longish list of ingredients. But if you get everything prepped and ready to go before you heat up the wok or saucepan, it actually comes together fairly quickly.

You can find tamarind paste in the Asian section of most larger grocery stores, as well as in Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Or, make this substitute: Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 tablespoon brown sugar for every tablespoon of paste.

I used both chicken and shrimp in this recipe, but you could opt for just one of them. Don’t forget the mint — it adds color and zip.

Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai

For stir-fry:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Sea salt and white pepper, for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
  • 10 ounces rice noodles
  • 6 ounces peeled and cooked shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3/4 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and finely sliced
  • Red pepper flakes, divided
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

For garnish:

  • Roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • Finely sliced fresh mint
  • Roughly chopped unsalted peanuts
  • Crispy fried onions
  • Lime wedges

Season chicken and heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned all over.

Cook noodles according to packet instructions, then drain and set aside.

Place chicken, shrimp, vegetables, ginger, garlic, chili, a pinch of red pepper flakes and noodles in a large bowl and mix well.

Make sauce: Add 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Taste and add more tamarind paste, if desired; it should be piquant, but not too sour. Stir in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and set aside.

Heat remaining oil in large wok or skillet over high heat. Add the noodle mixture and stir-fry, ensuring the ingredients move around the pan and start to cook.

Tip in the eggs and continue to stir-fry until the vegetables start to caramelize and the eggs cook, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add tamarind sauce to pan and toss ingredients, making sure the sauce does not stick to the pan. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes and then remove from heat

Divide between 4 serving plates and scatter with fresh herbs. Garnish with the peanuts, crispy fried onions and a wedge of lime. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from: “Wagamama Feed Your Soul” by Steve Mangleshot (Kyle Books; October 2019)

Gretchen’s Table is a Tribune News Service column from Gretchen McKay, a feature writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email her at and check out her “Cooking With Gretchen” videos on YouTube.

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