Pad Thai Recipe

An Attempt to Make a Pad Thai Recipe

I’ve purposefully refrained from writing about food and cooking on this blog for several reasons, but primarily because I know nothing about either.

But things are about to change.

Last week, two of my professors at CSU made blogging a requirement, to my complete surprise. The prof for my “Creativity, Literacy and Collaboration” class stated this task: to spend at least one hour each week doing a creative activity that’s completely out of our comfort zone, then reflecting on the process and writing about it.

The task could be anything from learning to play the guitar, taking a new dance class, playing a sport, or doing crafts, as long as it’s something we don’t do on a regular basis.

For me, the answer is cooking.

Me Cooking Pad Thai Recipe

Me during a cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I did it for my friend.

Cooking anything more than pasta or a grilled chicken salad actually gives me anxiety. It might be the fact that I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, so I want it to turn out well, or it might be my complete lack of confidence due to a complete lack of experience, but cooking, especially having someone watch me cook, terrifies me. I think I’m doing it all wrong, from cutting the onion and pepper in the wrong direction, to not knowing the difference between spices and herbs, to not having the patience to do things slowly.

This fear wouldn’t make any sense to someone who knows my mother and my grandmother, two women who love to be in the kitchen. They are both outstanding cooks, serving up home cooked meals on a nightly basis. Anyone who stops by my grandmother’s house for a visit knows she often has two pies in the oven, a concoction on the stove and several cleaning projects underway at the same time.

Anyone who’s been to my parents’ for dinner can tell my mom slaved over the stove all afternoon, and then took the same amount of care when it came to presenting the meal on the table. She enjoys getting carried away in the details, and sees her finished product as a rewarding, yet effortless (for her), task.

I see it as a complete waste of time.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have good intentions for trying. I have cooked meals for others on occasion, but I do it for the same reason I jump off bridges and cliffs, go rock climbing, or wander blindly into the largest religious festival in India – just to see if I can.

Believe it or not, I’ve been carrying around a pink Thai cookbook from a class my friend Nicole talked me into in Chiang Mai, Thailand. When I first returned home in Summer 2012 I told my family I was going to try out my newly learned skills on them.

Nicole and I cooking at a class in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Nicole and I cooking at a class in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

That was 18 months ago.

I still owe them.

Then, when I left India in February, I brought with me a sack of the most popular spices used in many Northern dishes, and I’ve since taken it with me to Thailand and China, then from Condon to Bend and back three times, with intentions of cooking traditional northern cuisine for family and friends. Now, that same unmarked bag of spices is here in Fort Collins, and still has yet to be opened.

But now, cooking is not only required of me (at least once a week), it’s part of my grade. As a graduate student that sounds kind of silly, I agree, but I’m not complaining. It could be worse. I went through the journalism program in my undergraduate institution having almost no involvement with blogging or social media, two elements that are nowadays considered necessary tools in the life of a developing writer.

Had my professors at the University of Oregon assigned a blog, I would have cringed. I didn’t want my life to be public. Four plus years later and nearly the entirety of my life for the past two is on this website, and I love it. Not only do I see the importance of having an Internet platform for my future as a writer, but also I love having a way to express myself, to share my stories and photos, and to receive instant gratification with the click of a “Publish” button entirely in my hands.

Thai Cookbook with Pad Thai Recipe

So Saturday night, I pulled out that pink cookbook of Thai recipes, skimmed through to find the Pad Thai, and promptly went to the store to buy the ingredients. I didn’t realize until I returned home, however, that this book was very clearly written by a Thai, which means the directions fit in all of five lines, and some very important parts are missing.

When it comes to cooking, I need all the parts to be there, step by step, which I admit probably takes the creativity out of the equation completely.

But I tried anyway. And it was a near disaster.

I’m pretty sure the accidental blob of oyster sauce was way too much, and I probably should have precooked the noodles before throwing them into the wok with water, as the recipe suggests. I probably shouldn’t have substituted white sugar for brown (trying out that creative improv thing…because I didn’t have any regular sugar), and maybe I should have actually measured some of the ingredients. Even the color was way off.

Let’s just say, I ate it. The Pad Thai was edible, barely, but I’m really glad nobody else was around to witness it.

Pad Thai

It looked disgusting, so I added some veggies and peanuts and tried to mask it in disguise.


I can tell that with practice, I might actually get a knack for cooking. In time, I might even enjoy the process. I never understood how people relate this activity to relaxing, but with a bottle of wine and some Pandora tunes, I might be on the road to discovering their trick.

I did notice that cooking, unlike the other stress relieving activities I pursue (yoga, running, hiking, etc.), doesn’t allow the mind to wander too far from the task at hand. So when the pressures of grad school become too much and I just want to completely forget about the mountains of homework expected of me, I might just have to unearth my mother’s cooking gene and go get lost in the kitchen.

Until then, maybe you’ll have better luck with this Pad Thai recipe.


Pad Thai Recipe (directly from my pink book):

50 g narrow rice noodles

50 g sliced chicken small strips (or prawns)

20 g hard or firm tofu, sliced into small pieces

10 g Chinese chives or spring onion, cut into 3 cm lengths

30 g bean sprouts or cabbage

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 egg

2 tbsp cooking oil

1.5 tbsp oyster sauce (Veg.: mushroom sauce)

1/2 tbsp fish sauce (Veg.: soy sauce)

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup water


1. Fry tofu until lightly golden. Add garlic, fry until fragrant.

2. Add the chicken stir until cooked. Add the noodles and water, stir until tender.

3. Season oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and stir well.

4. Break the egg in, spread the egg around the wok and turn them over.

5. Add bean sprouts and Chinese chives, stir until everything is done.

** Serve with fresh vegetables and you can add some ground peanuts, chili powder, red dried shrimp, lime juice to create you favorite taste.


If you can fill in the blanks for me to try next time, I’d really appreciate it! What’s your trick?


An Attempt to Make a Pad Thai Recipe
Written by:Jessica J. Hill




  1. Frank says:

    Yeah, that doesn’t look like Pad Thai. Looks maybe some congealed curry dish…or roadkill with garnish :). There’s 3 types of cuisine that I’ve learned not worth cooking at home: Indian, Sushi, and Thai. Just too much trouble and never seems to quite come out like you want it. Hope you had fun doing it though!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • jessicajhill says:

      Well, that doesn’t sound very promising, Frank! Indian and Thai are two I’m hoping to conquer, so I’ll give it another go (or five). But you’re right, this one looks a like like garnished road kill 🙁

  2. Panda Green says:

    lol, Jessica– In my last email I think I signed off something in the likes of blah blah… kick ass cook! WITHOUT having read this blog. I am this way when it comes to BAKING! I hate it! I recently made surprise brownies for my mom and her first response was, "you made those–for me? but you HATE baking?" lol we both shared a laugh, they came out decent–it was just a box this time around-no way I would have the patience for "scratch". Keep it up! It will get easier the more you lovingly try. At least that's what I tell myself when I bake. Ps Pandora and wine def helps. I listen to oldies while I cook 🙂

  3. Jayla Rae says:

    Unfortunately I don't have any tricks of the cooking trade for you, but I will say that I enjoyed reading your blog! This should be an interesting journey because cooking with herbs and spices definitely puts a twist on it all– especially beginning with pad thai– how brave!
    Your writing flows so well. So easy to read, informative, and an interesting subject.

    Can't wait to see what you'll be cooking up next week! 🙂

    • jessicajhill says:

      Thanks, Jayla. I was really hoping you might have some tips for me…but at least I know who to turn to for help coming up with a fantasy football league, should I ever need to!

      P.S. Thanks for throwing in the word “flow.” Our prof will really love that 😉

  4. Nicole Stinnett says:

    Jessica I laughed out loud when I read this! I had no idea cooking was freaky for you, but I'll admit I'm the same! Both our moms are ridiculously awesome cooks. It's so great we did that class I'll never forget it! Haha keep up the cooking maybe tackle a turkey or something crazy for experimental purposes, either way keep us posted!

  5. Vid says:


    It does not look disgusting – come on, give yourself more credit than that 🙂 Even I never understood how some people relate cooking to de-stressing (Savi is one of those people too) but hey, who am I to complain when I get to taste scrumptious food just because someone else is stressed. I always do my part and find new ways to stress Savi out 🙂


  6. Suze says:

    I took some Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai too 🙂 I think I heard somewhere that there is not one receipe for Phad Thai, but this is what my cookbook says for 2 people:

    * 300 g fresh rice noodles (or dried, soaked in water for 15 mins – so yes, precook!); * 3 Tbsp oil; * 1 Tbsp chopped garlic; * 1 Tbsp dried shrimp (I like to use fresh ones sometimes); * 1 cup chopped tofu; * 6 Tbsp chicken stock or water; * 2 beaten eggs; * 3 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts; * 1/4 cup sliced chives; * 1 cup bean sprouts; * fresh veggies (bean sprouts, cabbage, chives)

    And for the magic sauce: * 3 Tbsp sugar; * 3 Tbsp fish sauce; * 1 Tbsp soy sauce; * 2 Tbsp tamarind juice (or a Tbsp of lemon juice mixed with 2-3 Tbsp of water – just for some sourness)

    Heat a pan with the oil, add garlic –> shrimp –> tofu –> noodles –> stock/water. Stir until the noodles are soft. Add the sauce ingredients (I like a bit of sauciness, so I usually cheat and double the amount). Scoop the mix to the side of the pan and add the eggs to the space you created. wait a min or two and stir the eggs until they start to scramble a bit –> mix into the noodles. Add the bean sprouts, peanuts and chives. Serve with lime wedges and the fresh veggies.

    A bit different from your receipe, but the boyfriend of a friend of mine always asks me to cook Phad Thai at least once when I visit them. Is that a good enough ref? 😉

    • jessicajhill says:

      That’s great, Suze! Thanks so much for your recipe. I’ll try it out next time I attempt pad Thai again. I’ve heard the tamarind sauce can make a world of difference 😉

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