Pad Thai

2 tablespoons tamarind paste or substitute
¾ cup boiling water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice stick noodles, about 1/8 inch wide (the width of linguine)
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
12 ounces medium (31/35 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, if desired
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped Thai salted preserved radish (optional)
6 tablespoons chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
3 cups (6 ounces) bean sprouts
5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on a sharp diagonal
¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (optional)
Lime wedgesDirections:
Rehydrate the tamarind paste in boiling water . Stir the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons oil into the tamarind liquid and set aside.

Cover the rice sticks with hot tap water in a large bowl; soak until softened, pliable, and limp but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside. Beat the eggs and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque and browned about the edges, about 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.

Off heat, add the remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet and swirl to coat; add the garlic and shallot, set the skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown, about 1½ minutes; add the eggs to the skillet and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 seconds. Add the noodles and the dried shrimp and salted radish (if using) to the eggs; toss with 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour the fish sauce mixture over the noodles, increase the heat to high, and cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are evenly coated. Scatter ¼ cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but ¼ cup scallions, and cooked shrimp over the noodles; continue to cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are tender, about 2½ minutes (if not yet tender add 2 tablespoons water to the skillet and continue to cook until tender).

Transfer the noodles to a serving platter, sprinkle with the remaining scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and cilantro; serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately

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