On request, here is the recipe for the best pad Thai I've ever had (not to even mention making). It's true, it is a little messy when all the ingredients hit the skillet, but not disastrously. The two biggest tips I have for minimizing the mess is using tongs to gently flip and toss the ingredients all together while cooking. The other, is the way these rice noodles are prepared. You don't want to boil the noodles, or to your peril, they may turn out mushy and sticky.
The following recipe is local chef's Heidi Fink, who is an amazing chef and instructor. I encourage you to take her cooking classes in you are in the area. One day, she'll publish a cook book. Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients, there's a few components to the recipe, but broken down it's all quite easy. Good luck and enjoy!
(Created by Heidi Fink, Truly Thai at Home 2005)
8oz or 1/2 a package of dried rice stick noodles (size medium)
8 oz medium tofu
1 tsp sesame oil
8 oz small or medium prawns, peeled
2.5 Tbsp dried tamarind paste
3/4 cup boiling water
4 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp sambal oelek
4 Tbsp vegetabe or grapeseed oil (or whatever your preferance is)
1/4 tsp salt
4 gloves garlic
1 large shallot
3 Tbsp small dried shrimp (yes, get the dried shrimp, they really add flavour to this dish)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
4 cups fresh crisp bean sprouts
5 green onions (scallions), green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 limes, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 400. Chop the tofu into small cubes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with the sesame oil and 1/8 tsp salt. Bake for 20 minutes, until the tofu is light golden. The parchment, although not neccessary, prevents sticking in the baking sheet and makes it easier to toss the tofu in the oil and salt before baking. Take the corners of the paper and lift upwards to gently roll the tofu in the oil and salt.
Meanwhile, place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let sit for 20-25 minutes, until the noodless are soften and piable, but with some firmness. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the tamarind in a bowl and cover with the 3/4 cup boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve into another bowl, pressing the solids with the back of a large spoon to extract as much of the tamarind pulp as possible. Scrape the underside of the sieve to get all the stuff that has collected there and place this into the bowl with the rest of the strained tamarind. Discard the solids remaining in the sieve.
Mix strained tamarind with the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sambal oelek and 2 tbps of the oil. This is your phad thai sauce. Set aside. Beat the eggs with the remaining 1/8 tsp salt in another bowl.
Arrange remaining ingredients in small bowls within reach of the stovetop. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 1 minute. Add beaten eggs and stir constantly for about 20 seconds. Add the drained noodles, prawns and dried shrimp. Use a good pair of tongs to gentle toss and fold the ingredients together. Add sauce mixture and cook stirring and tossing constantly for a minute or so. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, baked tofu, 3 cups bean sprouts, and 1/2 cup scallions and continue to toss and fold everything around for 2-3 minutes, adding a bit of water to the pan if necessary, to keep things from sticking. Noodles should be tender and silky.
Transfer to a serving platter and scatter the remaining peanuts, scallions and cilantro. Garnish the top with the remaining bean sprouts and arrange lime wedges on the side. Serve.