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Pad Thai is thought of by many westerners as Thailand's national dish, and for the most part it is. Often it is their introduction to Thai cooking and can be found on the menus of most Thai restaurants here in the states. It is essentially pan fried noodles with a delicate and delicious flavor. I do this as a vegetarian dish to compliment a main entree but it can include pork, chicken or seafood and serve as the main meal all by itself.
Soak the noodles in warm water for ~15 minutes. Be careful not to let them get mushy! They will soften later while stir frying. If using linguine, cook al dente.
Mix the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, catsup and pepper flakes together until the sugar is dissolved. Set the mixture aside. Slice the scallions into 1" pieces (both white and green parts). Set aside.
Grind the peanuts in a food processor until the pieces are the size of coarsely ground coffee. Set aside.
Heat wok, add oil and swirl it over the surface. Add the scallions, shallots and carrots and stir fry until they are tender yet crisp (~ 2 minutes). Add the garlic and stir-fry until aromatic, about 1 minute..
Add the beaten eggs and swirl into the mixture. Add the noodles and toss until they are coated with oil.
Add the fish sauce mixture and bring to a rapid boil, gently folding the noodles without breaking them. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, folding frequently until the noodles have absorbed the liquid. Once again be careful not to overcook the noodles. Once the noodles are the right texture add the bean sprouts and toss for an additional minute.
Place the mixture on a large warm platter. Sprinkle the peanut and chile flakes over the top of the noodles and squeeze the juice of a lime over the top.
Notes: Fish sauce can be a bit pungent for American palettes unaccustomed to the cuisine of SE Asia. While soy sauce may be substituted, the authenticity of the dish will not be the same.
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