Ethnic restaurants because they offer unusual vegetarian dishes, and one dish that pops up continually in Thai restaurants is pad Thai. It's one of my favorites. In fact, I judge the quality of any Thai restaurant by how it prepares this dish.
The name means "Thai-style stir-fried noodles," and it is considered street food at best. The comforting texture of soft rice noodles against the crunch of fresh vegetables laced with sweet sauce is almost addictive. It's the national dish of Thailand, and although there are dozens of variations, all are similar and simple to prepare.
Pad Thai is made with rice noodles, which are a bit tricky to work with because, unlike wheat-based noodles, you don't boil them. Instead, you soak them in warm water to soften and prepare them for stir-frying.
For this dish you also need tamarind paste. Made from the pods of the tamarind tree, it is very tart and tangy.
For sweetness, Thai cooks use palm sugar harvested from the watery sap that drips from cut buds of the sugar palm. You can substitute light brown sugar, Florida Crystals or turbinado sugar.
Many Thai restaurants also use tomato ketchup in their pad Thai, but I think that's only for American tastes so I don't include it.
If you want to make a vegan version, omit the traditional scrambled eggs.
Most of the ingredients you need are available in Asian grocery and natural food stores. Tamarind is also available in Latin stores.
—By Chef Steve Petusevsky