Why is Pad Thai red? (the authentic Pad Thai)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Why is pad Thai red? We will tell you what the ingredients that give Pad Thai its color are. We will finish with an original recipe for Pad Thai.

Why is Pad Thai red?

Authentic Pad Thai in Thailand is not red! Some cooks use a lot of Tamarind paste, and the dish can have somewhat of an orangish tinge. Besides, many places that make Pad Thai, especially in the States, use Ketchup and that Pad Thai is red and tastes nothing like authentic Pad Thai.

Keys to give the typical dark and orange color to Pad Thai:

  • The fat from inside the head of the prawns that we will use in the recipe must be very fresh. This ingredient is the one that naturally produces the most beautiful and flavorful color.
  • Dark soy sauce is not so typical, but it can also be used, leaving it a little less orange.
  • The reduction and caramelization of the Pad Thai sauce, which contains fish sauce, tamarind paste, and palm sugar. You must double the sauce ingredients and reduce it by half in a pan; then, we will prepare our dish and add it directly.

The many versions of Pad Thai

There are many versions of Pad Thai in Thailand, depending on the country’s area where it is prepared since different ingredients can be used to give the sauce its characteristic flavor.

It is made both with rice noodles, the version that we will make today, and not soy noodles, called “Pad Thai Woonsen” (ผัด ไทย วุ้นเส้น), which I also like a lot. Besides, there is also another variety of Pad Thai that is served wrapped in a fragile layer of egg omelet, called Pad Thai Ho-Khai (ผัด ไทย ห่อ ไข่).

We can use both prawns or prawns as chicken, pork, or the vegetarian version only using tofu as for the protein.

In Thailand, we accompany it with Chinese garlic or chives, a piece of lime, sugar, roasted peanuts, and roasted chili powder, so that each person can adjust their flavor to taste.

These are the basic condiments to enrich the dish: fish sauce for the salty flavor, tamarind paste for the acidity point, and palm sugar.

The secret of the Pad Thai color – What is tamarind paste?

Tamarind paste is a concentrate made from the pulp of the tamarind fruit, a tree of tropical origin that produces an edible fruit that is highly appreciated in different parts of the world such as Asia and South America.

There are two types of Tamarind tree:

  • one produces fruit that, when ripe, is very sweet, it is eaten like fruit and is often used to make sweets
  • Another produces fruit that makes tamarind paste when ripe, is more acidic and with a sweet touch.

How to preserve homemade tamarind paste?

We can keep it in the fridge for a week or divide it into portions (such as in an ice bucket) and freeze it for up to 2 months, using it later as we need it.

Where can it be found?

In the US, we can buy it in Asian supermarkets, in its two varieties, and on some occasions, it can also be found in the supermarkets of some large stores.

Commercial varieties and uses of tamarind paste

It is marketed in two different ways:

  1. In a jar, with the name of “Concentrate or Tamarind Paste,” Ready for use in our recipes quickly and very conveniently. Keep in mind that its flavor is somewhat more acidic, and the amount will have to be adjusted well.
  1. In pulp, packaged so that we can make tamarind paste ourselves.

Other FAQs about Pad Thai which you may be interested in.

What does Pad in Thai food mean?

What does Pad Thai taste like?

Why is pad Thai so unhealthy?

How to prepare authentic pad thai

Ingredients for one person:

  • 70 g. rice noodles
  • 50 g. bean sprouts
  • 50 g. hard tofu
  • 1 egg
  • 1 shallot (1 tbsp)
  • 5 prawns
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp
  • 1 tbsp canned radish (optional)
  • Pad Thai Sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar get
  • 1.5 tbsp tamarind paste get
  • roasted chili powder (to taste)

To decorate:

  • lime
  • peanuts
  • roasted chili powder

How to do it:

┃Step 1

We soak the rice noodles in the water at room temperature for 1 hour.

┃Step 2

Cut the Chinese garlic into pieces of about 2 centimeters, chop the shallot and the canned radish, cut the tofu into small pieces, peel the prawns leaving the final part of the tail.

┃Step 3

In a frying pan with a little vegetable oil, we fry the prawns, and when they are almost cooked, we reserve them for later.

┃Step 4

In the same pan, we fry the tofu. When it is golden brown, add the shallot and canned radish; when it starts to smell good, add the dried shrimp and fry it for 1 more minute.

┃Step 5

Add the rice noodles and mix everything well. We are adding water little by little so that the noodles soften.

┃Step 6

Add the tamarind paste, palm sugar, fish sauce, and toasted chili powder to taste, mix everything well.

┃Step 7

We put the noodles aside, put a little vegetable oil, and fry the egg. We add the bean sprouts, the Chinese garlic, the prawns, and the toasted peanuts; we sauté it one more minute and ready to serve.



Pad Thai represents the perfect combination of Thai gastronomy’s four primary flavors: sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. The real name of this dish is kway teow pad thai. The first two words are of Chinese origin and translate as rice noodles, and the Thai term pad or pat translates as a stir fry. 

We serve the pad thai on a large plate or individual plates and garnish with fresh coriander leaves, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, chives, and a lime wedge.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!


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