Pranee’s Pad Thai

| April 12, 2010 | 3 Comments

Living in Oregon now, I often ache for my homeland. It seems so far away. The last time I went home to Thailand was in 2007, and it brought back to life so many memories from my distant childhood that had begun to grow dim and fade with time. 

One of my fondest memories grew out of a difficult time in my life. My parents had divorced, we had just gotten back to Thailand after spending several years in California, and my mother was living on her own and trying to make her way. The best solution at the time was to enroll me in boarding school. 

To this day I can vividly remember the sadness of crawling into bed, tucking the mosquito nets under my mattress, and falling to sleep in a room of 50 strangers, with the ceiling fans making our mosquito nets gently wave to and fro while we listened to the rain falling on the leaves of the banana grove behind our school, Bangkok Christian College. 

As children often do during difficult times, I recovered quickly, making friends and finding joy in the simple things in life. One of my best friends in school and I would save our allowances and often venture out of the gates on weekends in search of street food for our meals, instead of eating at school. The roads around the school would be packed with portable kitchens on bicycles. Enterprising businessmen had figured out a way of turning their tricycle carts into portable restaurants/kitchens, and they sold everything you could imagine: roasted squid, duck noodle soup, all kinds of fruits like durian, jack fruit, mango, mangosteen, rhambutan, longan, roast pork and poached chicken on rice, larb, all manner of curries, som tam (papaya salad). The selection was endless. 

Even today, the place for authentic and great Thai food is in the streets. Here a street food vendor sells larb, som tam and fried bananas.


Diners stop to enjoy a lunch of noodles made by street food vendors.


One of my favorite street food fares was pad Thai, made by an almost toothless old man. I can still remember his face in my mind’s eye, with two bottom teeth that would show as he smiled, wrinkles gathering on his brown time-worn face as he greeted us. The pad Thai I remember him making was with fresh rice noodles, chicken or pork, and a sauce with tamarind as a base. After he had stir-fried our noodles, topped them with fresh bean sprouts and chopped garlic chives, and handed us our plates, my friend and I would flip open his little homemade condiment tray and load up on ground roasted Thai chili peppers, roasted and ground peanuts, and some sliced chili peppers and garlic that were steeping in white vinegar. We would then run to the wall of our school and perch on the cement balustrade to enjoy our meal. 

Whenever Mom makes this dish for us at home now, that happy memory still comes to life. And Thailand isn’t so far away anymore. 

My mother's version of pad Thai, a dish I fondly remember from my childhood.


Pranee’s Pad Thai 

  1. 16 oz (457 g.) package of fresh thin rice noodles, found refrigerated in Asian grocery stores
  2. 12 oz (342 g.) fresh bean sprouts
  3. 2 cups (480 ml.) medium to large shrimp, shelled and cleaned
  4. 3 eggs, slightly beaten until yolks break
  5. 5 oz (142 g.)  fried tofu (tofu that’s been dipped in an egg batter and fried), found refrigerated in Asian grocery stores
  6. 1/4 cup (60 ml.) fish sauce
  7. 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 ml. total) of sugar
  8. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) Sriracha chili sauce
  9. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) catsup
  10. 1 cup (240 ml.) hot water
  11. 1/2 cup (120 ml.) dry-roasted peanuts, pounded in a mortar and pestle (or chopped in a blender) until coarsely ground
  12. 1 lime cut into wedges
  13. 1 bunch garlic chives chopped into 1-inch lengths (if you can’t find this at an Asian grocery store, substitute spring onions)
  14. 1/4 cup (60 ml.) peanut or safflower oil
  • Prepare sauce by combining the following in a large measuring cup or medium bowl: sugar, Sriracha chili sauce, hot water, catsup. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Heat oil in wok over high heat. Add shrimp, eggs, tofu and about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) of the sauce mixture, and stir quickly until shrimps are pink.
  • Microwave the fresh rice noodles (do not use dried rice noodles) for 1 minute, cut into manageable lengths and add to wok, stirring quickly to mix with the shrimp and egg mixture.
  • Add remaining sauce to the wok and gently fold the noodles so they’re evenly coated with the sauce, and alternate cooking and folding for 4 minutes. Add garlic chives and half of the bean sprouts, fold into noodles and cook for another minute.
  • Remove from heat, transfer into serving dish and garnish with limes wedges and raw bean sprouts. Sprinkle the ground peanuts on top of the noodles and serve.

Note: If you want to kick this up a notch like I did when I was a kid, add some roasted and grounded red chilis, and some sliced jalapeños and garlic that have been steeped in white vinegar. 


— Vic

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Category: Thai

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (3)

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  1. noble pig says:

    My heart breaks hearing your memories. I’m glad you can recall the happier times as well. What a beautiful dish to remember your homeland with.

  2. VPanichkul says:

    Thanks Cathy. Mom lives with us and as she’s getting older, I’m trying to get her to cook all of my favorite childhood Thai dishes so that I can share them with our readers and make sure that I have the recipes for myself when the time comes and she passes away.

  3. Please give Pranee a big embrace for me! I adore wearing the beautiful pearls she gave me when I was last with all of you! I miss you, too!!

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