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Pad Thai Sauce

(recipe, Matthew Amster-Burton)


This recipe was adapted from Cook's Illustrated, July 2002.


  1. 4 oz. tamarind paste (see Note)
  2. 1½ cups boiling water
  3. ¼ cup peanut oil
  4. 6 Tbsp. fish sauce
  5. 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  6. ¼ cup (about 2 ounces) palm sugar, crushed (or substitute white sugar)


  1. Place the tamarind paste in a bowl and pour the boiling water over. Let sit 5 minutes, then stir gently, pressing the paste against the side of the bowl to break up. Let sit another 5 minutes and stir again. Repeat until there are no remaining large chunks of paste, then strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing gently on the tamarind paste and scraping the bottom of the sieve. Discard the contents of the sieve.
  2. Add the peanut oil, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and palm sugar to the tamarind liquid, and stir until the sugar dissolves. May be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen up to 2 months.


Tamarind paste is found in most Asian groceries. It's sold in a one-pound cellophane-wrapped square block, and you reconstitute it by soaking it in boiling water and straining out the solids. This is probably the most arduous part of the pad Thai process, so it definitely makes sense to make extra tamarind water and refrigerate or freeze it. Read more in Matthew Amster-Burton's column about the art of making pad Thai.