When SE editor Erin asked me why there had never been a pad Thai in our Dinner Tonight series, I didn't have a straight answer. I just assumed that sometime over the past five years either Blake or I had made one.
Looking to correct this egregious mistake, I searched all over for a quick recipe, but kept running head first into walls. Though quick to prepare, pad Thai recipes can often feature over 20 ingredients—many of which are hard to track down. I tried a succession of shortcut recipes, but I had no less than three fail to live up to my pad Thai standards.
That's when Mark Bittman came in. This recipe from his Minimalist column in the New York Times is by far the best quick version of pad Thai I have been able to find. While it might not hold up to some of the more intense preparations, it's incredibly flavorful and balanced—not too sweet or heavy. I particularly love the addition of the cabbage, which helps bulk things out.
Since Bittman subs honey for the more-difficult-to-find palm sugar, the only ingredient that might take some time finding is the tamarind paste. You can order some online, or you can do what I did and make your own. Regardless, it's absolutely essential, so don't begin without it.