Kris Yenbangroom shares his unique style of Thai cooking made famous at his L.A. restaurant in Night + Market.
Here are my pad Thai ground rules: Some chefs like to keep the toppings separate. I don’t. I toss in the green onions and bean sprouts right after turning off the heat so they are incorporated but remain crunchy. The roasted chiles and crushed peanuts are arranged next to the noodles for easy mixing access, along with a lime wedge to squeeze on top. This arrangement makes it easier to scarf down a plate once it hits the table, which is the best way to eat pad Thai.
I like my sauce to be direct and sharp, which is why I use white sugar and white vinegar as opposed to the subtler (and harder to find) palm sugar and tamarind water. I never use fresh noodles, only dried rice stick noodles soaked beforehand because I find them more consistent. I don’t use an abundance of meat—the noodles should be the focus—and I prefer the egg to be cooked through but still soft, so that it can incorporate into the noodles as a distinct ingredient rather than as a coating, like with pasta carbonara. On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t cook the egg too much early on, or by the time the noodles are finished, it will look like rubbery scrambled eggs from a bad hotel buffet.
If you time everything right (which might take a few tries to master), you’ll end up with chewy, sauce-infused noodles, soft bits of egg, and crunchy bean sprouts and green onion. You’ll never need another pad Thai recipe again.
- Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes, until pliable enough to bend around a finger. (If you’re not using them immediately, you can drain the noodles and keep them in the fridge until ready to use.)
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, fish sauce, and vinegar to make a sauce.
- Heat an empty wok over high heat until it begins to smoke, then swirl in the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken or tofu and stir-fry until the meat turns opaque but isn’t fully cooked, which should take about a minute (less time for shrimp—they will cook a little more quickly). Add the noodles and sauce, then continue to stir-fry, constantly stirring, until the noodles absorb the sauce, about another minute.
- Use your spatula to push aside the noodles and leave them there, making an empty space in the center of the wok. Crack the egg into the empty space and let it cook until the edges start to set, 15 to 20 seconds. Use the edge of your spatula to break up and roughly scramble the egg, then toss it back in with the noodles while the egg is still soft. Once the egg looks mostly cooked, remove from the heat and throw in the bean sprouts and green onions, tossing thoroughly to combine. Transfer to a plate and garnish with the peanuts, chile powder, and lime wedge.
Reprinted from Night + Market. Copyright © 2017 by Kris Yenbamroong. Photographs by Marcus Nilsson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.