I based this largely on several readings of this extensive post. It's really good. And then I ignored much of the advice and came up with the following.
So, two parts: sauce and assembly.
- 1/2 cup fish sauce, more or less. The stuff is salty so take that into account.
- 1/2ish cup -- maybe more -- rice wine vinegar. This was basically because tamarind paste is hard to find; I'm sure it's better done the right way.
- Pure cane sugar -- more than expected
- Sriracha (plenty)
- Garlic-chili paste (also plenty)
- Water to take salt down and get a sauce that will reduce properly under very high heat
As per suggestion, I've decided that woking up one serving at a time is the best way to go. Not only does it let you customize to the taste of your fellow eaters, it just comes out better.
But first, noodles. I've used pho. Soaked in hot tap water for less than about five minutes. Make sure these are ready to go.
Take your choice of proteins. I like chicken for this; beef is too aggressive, I hate shrimp, and I don't much care for tofu. If you're going to use shrimp, be sure to add it later than you would the chicken (which goes in first).
Slice your chicken, preferably breast for this (trust me, you won't miss the fat), quite thin. This is rather important, as you really don't want any single serving to be in the wok for more than, say, 90 to 120 seconds.
Crush some peanuts, preferably unsalted. The easy way: put a bunch of peanutes in a ziploc bag and either use a rolling pin to roll them into near pulp or, say, a cast iron pan. Either works.
Dice some green onion.
Chiffonade some basil, preferably Thai or purple, but we've talked about those before.
Wash some bean sprouts. More than you think.
If desired, let about an egg per serving come to room temp. I also hate egg, so I don't add this myself, but it's not only traditional, it's almost required to be "real" pad thai.
Heat peanut oil, plenty, in a wok. Toss in any non-seafood with a small ladel-full of the sauce. Cook that nearly through as quickly as possible.
Add noddles and bean sprouts.
If using egg, push everything in the wok to one side save some of the sauce and basically scramble the egg very quickly on the bottom of the wok.
Add shrimp here and make damn sure the heat is high enough to cook quickly.
Add more sauce, probably a few ladels if your heat is high enough.
Finish with basil, green onion, etc.
Serve with lime slices and more peanuts for maximum effect.
Mmm. Realish pad thai.