Learn to Make Pad Thai Like a Local

Tim Gillespie
January 16, 2024

Tim currently lives in Lampang, Thailand and is happily married to his wife Yong and they have a beautiful baby daughter named Anda. One thing this family likes to do is EAT. Yep, if you’re a foodie and looking for some authentic Thai grub, they are the people to eat with! Trust us, they won't steer you wrong. We asked Tim what one of his favorite Thai dished to make was, and he answered with Pad Thai.

Tim, Yong, and baby Anda

Before we share the Pad Thai recipe, we asked Tim some questions regarding Thai Cuisine. Here's what he had to say:

Tim, what are the typical foods in Thailand?

1. Noodle soup (guay teow):  served all day long and into the late nights, this may be the most common food, other than rice, in Thailand.  Noodles come in multiple varieties:  thin and wide rice noodles, egg noodles, and bean thread noodles.  Then there are the different broths: nam tok, tom yum, khao soy, yen ta fo and sukiyaki.  The different noodle and broth combinations make it easy to never get bored with eating a noodle soup.

2.  Spicy salads (yam or som tum):  Typically eaten as a compliment to the main dish, spicy salads are a standard when ordering a meal for a group of friends.  However, there are certain varieties, like papaya salad, that can act as the main meal.  In addition to papaya salad, you can find salads consisting of meat (laab), seafood, other fruits, and egg.

3.  Stir-fry:  If you’ve ever traveled to Thailand, you’ve definitely had your share of fried rice with plenty of vegetables mixed in.  Other favorites are spicy Thai basil (pad krapow), chicken with cashew nuts (gai pad met ma-muang) and morning glory (pak boong).  Stir-fry dishes can be found in just about every eatery in Thailand.

Street vendor, cooking a popular stir-fry dish.

Any Thai food traditions? 

Thai people prefer to eat in groups and sample many different dishes, making "family style" meals very popular in this region.  Dishes come out as they are prepared (rather than all at once) and are shared with the table.  Insider Tip: It is considered rude to take a large portion of food at one time, so be sure to only take a spoonful or two for each serving.

Thais normally eat most dishes with a spoon and fork. The spoon is held in your right hand and the fork is used to scoop food onto the spoon and rearrange it so it doesn't fall off on its way to your mouth. Even in many top restaurants in Thailand, you'll be given a spoon and fork. Knives aren't used much while eating Thai food as the food is, typically, already in bite sized pieces, so there's no need to cut anything.

Thai table etiquette dictates that you eat slowly. Thais like to spend a lot of time over meals, hanging out with friends, talking, and laughing, so don't eat your food quickly. If you do, you'll find you're sitting there with an empty plate while everyone else has barely started. Savor the food, enjoy the many tantalizing tastes and you'll be sure to enjoy the meal even more.

Why did you choose Pad Thai?

Pad Thai is the most well known Thai dish.  You may think it is only served in western Thai style restaurants, but in fact, Thais regularly eat it as well.  It’s not particularly common to order pad thai at a restaurant because the street vendor pad thai is where you will really get your money’s worth.  At these little vendors is where you’ll find Thais gathered around little folding tables, sitting in plastic chairs, and watching the cook flip noodles, fry vegetables, and crack open eggs over a big wok.  It’s basically a culinary theater.

Additionally, all of the ingredients for a proper pad thai can be found in every grocery store, thus it will be an easy dish to cook at home.  So grab the ingredients, throw some extra crushed peppers in, and enjoy!  If you make it to Thailand, look Tim up and he'll take you for some authentic street vendor pad thai.

Pad Thai, a classic dish of Thailand

The Recipe 


The Sauce

35 grams palm sugar, finely chopped 

1/4 cup tamarind paste/concentrate 

2 Tbsp fish sauce 

3 Tbsp water

Pad Thai

4 ounces dry rice noodles 

8–10 shrimp, or as many as you’d like, peeled 

1 small head shallot, thinly sliced, about 3 Tbsp

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp dried shrimp, chopped

1 pc pressed tofu, cut into small pieces 

½ tsp of chili flakes

A scant ¼ cup of chopped sweet preserved daikon radish 

2 eggs

2.5 cups bean sprouts

1 cup garlic chives, cut into 2” pieces

¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts

1 lime

Tools needed: A well-seasoned wok, or a large non-stick pan.


  1. Soak the rice noodles in room temperature water for 1 hour, until the noodles turn from translucent to completely white and are very pliable. Drain and set aside until ready to use. Tip: You can soak the noodles a few days in advance, drain, and store in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use.
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil over high heat in a wok or a large sauté pan. When the pan is very hot, add the shrimp and let sear without moving until they are halfway done. Flip and finish cooking the shrimp on the other side. Remove and set aside.
  1. In the same pan, add another 1-2 tablespoons of oil and turn the heat to medium. Add the shallots, garlic, dried shrimp, preserved radish, pressed tofu, and chili flakes. Cook until the garlic starts to brown slightly.
  1. Add the soaked noodles and the sauce, turn the heat up to high, and keep stirring and tossing until the noodles have absorbed all the sauce.
  1. Once all the sauce has been absorbed, push the noodles to one side of the pan and add the eggs to the empty space. Scramble the eggs gently and let them set about half way. Put the noodles on top of the eggs and let the eggs set completely for another 15 seconds or so. Flip everything over (you can toss them or just use a wok spatula) and toss to break up the eggs.
  1. Add the bean sprouts, garlic chives, and half of the peanuts, turn off the heat, and toss everything to mix. The residual heat of the pan will wild the vegetables just enough.
  1. Plate the noodles, top with the shrimp and sprinkle over the remaining peanuts. Serve with a piece of lime (must-have). You can also serve with extra bean sprouts, garlic chives, and chili flakes if desired. To top it off, make sure you squeeze that lime over the noodles before serving.

Gin Kow (Eat up!)

Tim Gillespie
Tim is U30X's Thailand Manager & Community Builder, and has been living, traveling and accumulating experiences in SE Asia since 2009. He loves being in the outdoors, immersing himself in local cultures, and tasting exotic foods.


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