When I visited Thailand a few years ago, I discovered Pad Thai for the first time. We've enjoyed a passionate affair since then.
I've tried to recreate the Pad Thais I ate in Thailand but sadly I've never been able to replicate the ones I remember from Thailand 100%. I think I will have to go back to Thailand for genuine Pad Thais-which is something I hope to do at some point in my life.
My quest to perfect Pad Thai has not been a complete failure-the version I've settled for has become one of my very favourite dinners and is as follows:
Noodles (medium-ribbon is traditional)
Birds eye chillies
Juice of 1 lime
Peanuts (partly crushed)
(any other vegetable could probably be used. Versions I had in Thailand included tomatoes and greens).
I'm not exact in my quantities, just add what suits your taste. The dish isn't supposed to be extremely hot so perhaps remove the seeds from the chilli. The only other thing to note is that you should have equal amounts of lime juice and fish sauce as they should balance each other out. I average out at 2 tablespoons of each.
Heat some oil in a wok, fry the garlic and chillies a little and then add the vegetables. I add the spring onions last as I like them a little raw. Add the tamarind paste and fish sauce, then noodles. (Add the egg if using). Take the wok off the heat and add the peanuts, lime juice and coriander.
Again, I am a lackadaisical chef and don't have any hard and fast rules. The only part of the recipe I'm strict about is adding the lime juice and coriander after the wok is taken off the heat. Nobody wants cooked lime juice and wilted coriander after all!
When we were staying on Koh Lanta I spent an evening at a local cookery school and learn to cook some real Thai food. It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious.
The evening started with a talk given by one of the teachers on the history and theory of Thai cuisine which was fascinating.
The practical class was held by a Thai lady called Sugar ("I not speak good English but I sure know to cook". And she did too). It was a lovely way to spend an evening in Thailand and dinner was eaten together around a large table on the beach with the beautiful sunset and lots of conversations with people from all over Europe and USA.
More information (including some recipes, Thailand is fairly far to travel to for a cookery class):