Pad woon sen (or ป้าหมี) is one of Thailand’s most beloved and delicious street food dishes.
This noodle dish has been around since at least the 19th century, but it gained popularity after being featured on the TV show Pad Woonsen in 2013.
The original version of this dish contains only egg, bean sprouts, meatballs, and rice noodles.
However, many modern versions have added other toppings such as vegetables, tofu, fish sauce, and herbs.
What Is The Origin Of Pad Woon Sen?
According to Wikipedia, there are two different theories about where pad woon sen originated from.
One says that it was invented by an Italian chef who came up with the idea while working in Bangkok.
He then brought his creation back home to Italy and sold it for a profit.
Another theory says that the dish was created during World War II when soldiers were short on money to buy food so they decided to make their own pad woon sen using whatever they could find.
The truth probably lies somewhere between these two stories.
Regardless of how it got its start, pad woon sen became very popular among Thais because of its unique combination of flavors and textures.
In fact, this dish is often referred to as “Thai comfort food.”
There are several varieties of pad woon sen available today.
This includes vegetarian pad woon sen, beef pad woon sen, chicken pad woon sen, and even pad woon sen filled with cheese balls!
Ingredients for pad woon sen recipes
- Cellophane noodles – These long thin noodles come in various sizes and colors including white, green, red, yellow, brown, purple, black, and pink. They are generally soaked before use and boiled until soft.
- Bean sprouts – Also known as mung beans, soybeans, or edamame, these tiny seeds are usually stir-fried with garlic and chili peppers before serving.
- Meatballs – There are several types of meatballs used in pad woon sen recipes. Some common ones include ground pork, minced shrimp, crabmeat, ground beef, and ground chicken.
- Rice noodles – Rice noodles are also called glass noodles and come in varying thicknesses. Most commonly found in supermarkets, they are usually cooked either dry or wet. Dry rice noodles tend to absorb more liquid than those that are wet so they will soak up more broth when cooking them in water.
- Vegetables – Pad woon sen recipes may contain any type of vegetable depending on what the cook wants to add flavor and texture to the dish. Commonly used veggies include carrots, cabbage, cucumber, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, spinach, bamboo shoots, corn, zucchini, radish, and tomatoes.
- Fish sauce – Fish sauces are thick liquids containing fermented anchovies, salt, sugar, and spices. There are three basic types of fish sauce: light, dark, and sweet. All three have their own unique taste profiles and characteristics.
- Shrimp paste – Shrimp paste is a pungent condiment made from fermented shrimp. It is typically mixed into a wide range of dishes including curries, salads, soups, and desserts.
- Herbs – Herbs are always used sparingly in pad woon sen recipes because they should not overpower the other ingredients. Popular herbs include basil, cilantro, mint, chives, scallions, ginger, turmeric, curry powder, coriander seed, lemongrass, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, tamarind, and galangal.
You can easily substitute some of the ingredients listed above if you want to create your own customized pad woon sen recipe.
For example, instead of using bean sprouts, you can try adding shredded lettuce or cabbage.
Instead of using rice noodles, you can substitute fresh pasta like tagliolini or linguine.
How to prepare pad woon sen recipes
Here are four easy steps to follow if you decide to make pad woon sen at home:
- Soak the dried cellophane noodles in hot water until soft. If you don’t have enough time, just boil them in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes.
- Drain the noodles well and set aside. You can place them in a colander over a bowl or directly onto paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Cook the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the diced onions and sautee for 5 minutes.
- Add all remaining ingredients except for the cellophane noodles to the pan and mix thoroughly. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until heated through.
Once everything is done, put the cellophane noodles into a strainer and drain off any excess liquid.
Add the drained noodles to the pan and gently fold together.
What Are The Traditional Ingredients In A Pad Woon Sen Recipe?
The following list shows some of the more common ingredients used to make a pad woon sen recipe:
- bean sprouts
- rice noodles
- tofu cubes
- fish sauce
- fresh basil leaves
- chili paste
- garlic cloves
- soy sauce
- ground pork
- crispy fried shallots
- green onions
- shrimp paste
- mixed pickled veggies
Canned vs fresh ingredients for pad woon sen recipes
You may notice that several of these ingredients are canned while others are fresh.
This is because some people prefer using canned ingredients for their convenience.
For example, shrimp paste is often found in cans so you don’t need to worry about opening up jars when making your own pad woon sen recipe.
If you want to use fresh ingredients, then do it!
Fresh ingredients will taste better than anything from a jar or tin.
You can also add them yourself instead of purchasing pre-made ones.
When choosing which meats to use in pad woon sen recipes, leaner meats like chicken breast tend to work best.
Pork belly works well too, though it requires longer cooking time.
If you want to save money, then go with ground beef to create a cheaper alternative.
How Is Pad Woon Sen Typically Served?
It is usually eaten with chopsticks while sitting on a bench along Bangkok’s streets, alleys, and sidewalks.
This dish is also often sold by vendors who set up shop outside of shopping malls, restaurants, and supermarkets throughout the city.
Traditional Ingredients for Pad Woon Sen Recipe
- Bean Sprout
- Rice Noodle
- Fish Sauce/Tamarind Paste
Variations to Pad Woon Sen Recipes
In addition to its standard ingredients, there are several ways you can customize your pad woon sen recipes depending on what you like best.
For example, if you want to add more flavor, try adding soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, chili powder, red pepper flakes, lemongrass paste, and lime juice.
You could also use different types of meats for extra variety.
Some options include chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, squid, crab, lobster, and even snake meat!
You can also make your own spice mix instead of purchasing premade ones from stores.
To do this, combine equal parts ground black pepper, white pepper, garlic, ginger, onion, cumin, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cassia bark, nutmeg, mace, bay leaves, clove buds, and mustard seed.
If you don’t mind getting messy, grind all of these spices together using a mortar and pestle before mixing them into your pad woon sen recipe.
If you decide to go vegetarian, you can replace the meatballs with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, zucchini, squash, carrots, cabbage, water chestnuts, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower.
If you prefer vegan cuisine, simply omit the eggs and substitute vegetable stock or mushroom broth for the regular water.
What Are Some Common Variations Of Pad Woon Sen?
There are several different ways to make pad woon sen.
Some recipes call for just one type of ingredient while others contain multiple types.
Here are some of the more popular ones:
- Som tam pad woon sen – This variant includes green papaya salad with ground pork, fresh basil leaves, and lime juice. Som tam means “a mixture of five flavors” in Thai cuisine.
- Tom yam pad woon sen – Tom yam is an herb commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. In this recipe, you will find pieces of chicken breast marinated with lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chili peppers, and palm sugar paste.
- Moo nang kaprao pad woon sen – Moo nang is a fermented soybean product that adds its own unique flavor to pad woon sen. You will find it sold by the kilogram at grocery stores. If you don’t want to buy moo nang, it’s easy enough to make your own using canned beans and a starter culture from a local grocery store.
- Khao soi pad woon sen – Khao soi translates to “dry curry.” To make this variation, you will need beef short ribs, which are usually found near the bone in large supermarkets. Dry curries require long simmering times, so if you’re looking for a quick dinner, this isn’t the best option.
- Pork ragu pad woon sen – Pork ragu is essentially Italian-style braised pork. It is often served over pasta, but here it is combined into a creamy base for the noodles. If you like spicy foods, try adding extra red pepper flakes to give the dish additional heat.
- Pla gai pad woon sen – Pla gai is another vegetable commonly used in Thai cookery. It is also known as Chinese broccoli because it resembles the shape of bamboo shoots.
- Nuad baht pad woon sen – Nuad baht is a dried shrimp paste that is commonly mixed with coconut milk and fried until crispy. It provides a distinct aroma and flavor to pad woon sen.
- Sauteed spinach pad woon sen – Sauteed spinach is actually quite simple to prepare. Spinach stems, the part of the stem that looks like woody string, are soaked in water before they get sauted. They add a nice crunch to the dish.
- Spicy tomato pad woon sen – Tomato is a staple ingredient in most pad woon sen recipes. This particular variety of tomato lends itself well to spicy sauces. Try adding extra hot chilies to up the spice level.
- Thai-inspired stir-fry pad woon sen – Stir-fried vegetables are always good additions to pad woon sen. For example, carrots, zucchini, sweet bell peppers, mushrooms, and cabbage all work well when cooked together.
What Are Some Tips For Making A Great Pad Woon Sen Dish?
The best way to prepare a good pad woon sen dish is to use fresh ingredients.
While you can buy frozen cellophane noodles, they will not taste nearly as good as those purchased from a local grocery store.
If possible, try to find cellophane noodles that come in their own juice so that you do not need to add any extra liquid during cooking.
If you want your pad woon sen to taste like its authentic counterpart, then you should avoid using canned or dried soybeans.
Instead, soak them overnight and drain them before adding them to your dish.
Fresh spinach leaves work really well here because they give off an earthy flavor while still retaining their vibrant green color.
To prevent the noodles from getting soggy, cook them separately first so that you can assemble everything together later.
This prevents the noodles from absorbing too much moisture and losing their crispiness.
For the same reason, do not put all the noodles into one bowl.
You might end up with a mess if you don’t separate each serving into individual bowls.
When chopping vegetables for pad woon sen, try to keep things simple.
Chopping lots of different items results in a lot of small pieces which makes clean-up time a real hassle.
Plus, there won’t be enough left over to serve someone else!
Lastly, do not overcook your pad woon sen.
Even though it may look done, there is no harm in giving it another minute or two.
Just remember that once cooked, your dish cannot be reheated.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Making Pad Woon Sen?
There are several things you should avoid doing with your pad woon sen dish so that it tastes better and is easier to eat.
Here are some ways in which you can improve your pad woon sen dish:
- Don’t over-boil the noodles because they will become mushy.
- Add lots of oil when frying the beef and pork balls. This will result in a greasy taste.
- Use fresh ingredients instead of dried ones. If you use frozen vegetables, thaw them before cooking. Frozen vegetables tend to retain moisture longer than their fresh counterparts.
- Make sure you don’t overcook the beef and pork balls. They need to remain pink inside while still having a nice texture.
- You want to cook the beef and pork balls until medium-rare. Use an instant read thermometer if you don’t know how to tell when they are done by touch.
- If you fry the beef and pork balls too much, the fat will burn and ruin the flavor of the dish.
- Do not add any extra salt to the dish—it will make the noodles soggy.
- The best way to serve pad woon sen is to place each piece into separate bowls. You can then put all of the condiments in one bowl and let everyone help themselves.
How Can I Make My Pad Woon Sen Dish More Flavorful?
There are several ways to improve your pad woon sen dish.
You should start by using fresh ingredients whenever possible so you get the best flavor out of each ingredient.
If you don’t have all these items in stock, look for substitutes that will help bring out the flavors of both the meatballs and the vegetables.
- Use ground beef instead of chicken if you want to cut down on fat content.
- If you find yourself short on time, use frozen meatballs rather than raw meatballs because they are already cooked. This cuts down on preparation time.
- Add extra aromatics like garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal root, kaffir lime leaf, shallots, onion, red chili pepper, and/or palm sugar to give the dish additional depth of flavor.
One of the key components of pad woon sen is the sauce used to cook it.
There are two types of sauces commonly used: sweet and sour.
Each type has its own unique benefits.
Sweet sauces contain sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses, and sometimes even brown sugar.
These sauces add sweetness to the dish, which helps balance out the salty nature of the pork and seafood.
Sweet sauces also tend to have less acidity compared with their sour counterparts.
Sour sauces are often preferred for pad woon sen because they provide a nice tangy taste with a slight hint of spice.
Many recipes call for tamarind juice, which adds a tartness to the sauce.
Sour sauces are typically thicker than sweet ones, which makes them ideal for cooking dishes like pad woon sen where there needs to be an ample amount of liquid to ensure everything cooks properly.
What Are Some Common Side Dishes That Go Well With Pad Woon Sen?
Aside from the standard ingredients for pad woon sen, there are several additional items you may want to add to your plate if you decide to order this dish.
Some people choose to add sliced cucumbers, carrots, green onions, peppers, basil leaves, mint leaves, cilantro stems, garlic chives, lime wedges, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, kaffir lime leaf sprigs, and/or chili flakes.
Others prefer adding shredded cabbage, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, bamboo shoots, and/or shrimp paste.
These additions will help give each dish its own unique flavor.
For example, the addition of cucumber in pad woon sen makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled meats, while the combination of tomato and basil gives the dish a nice balance when paired with seafood.
The addition of cucumbers to pad woon sen helps to keep the dish light and refreshing.
You may also use them as a crunchy garnish by cutting into small pieces and tossing them over top of the finished dish before serving.
If you don’t like eating raw cucumbers straight out of the fridge, try making a quick pickled cucumber salad using a simple sugar-vinegar mixture instead.
This is an easy and tasty alternative to traditional pickles.
- Combine 2 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, ½ cup granulated sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons kosher salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until all of the ingredients are dissolved.
- Add 6 Kirby cucumbers and let sit overnight. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Cut the ends off the cucumbers and cut lengthwise into quarters. Cut the slices into smaller pieces.
- Toss together with the dressing and serve immediately.
Another great pairing option for pad woon sen is a classic carrot salad.
Carrot salads are typically prepared with grated carrots and a variety of different seasonings, which means they’re not too sweet and often contain lots of healthy fiber.
- Peel 4 large carrots and grate on the coarse setting of a handheld vegetable peeler. Combine with ⅓ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons honey, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve alongside pad woon sen.
One of the greatest things about pad woon sen is how versatile it is.
If you love spicy foods, then you’ll probably enjoy the heat of pad woon sen’s optional red curry paste.
Red curry paste adds both color and spice to pad woon sen without overwhelming the delicate flavors of the rest of the dish.
- To prepare red curry paste, combine 5 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger root, ½ teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1½ teaspoons red curry paste, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor.
- Process until smooth.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
What Is The Best Way To Store Leftover Pad Woon Sen?
If you don’t eat all your pad woon sen in one sitting, make sure to cover them tightly so they stay fresh for up to three days by storing them in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Do not refrigerate your unused portion of pad woon sen if you plan to save it for later use.
- You should always wash any remaining used portions of pad woon sen thoroughly before storing them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Storing leftover pad woon sen in jars
If you want to save leftover pad woon sen for future meals, try using a jar to keep it from drying out over time.
For example, instead of placing your leftovers directly into plastic containers, place them inside a glass jar which will help protect the contents from moisture loss.
While this method may take longer to prepare, it will ensure that your pad woon sen remains tasty for a long period of time without spoiling.
- 1 Pot
- 1 Bowl
- 200 grams bean thread noodles
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup nappa cabbage
- ½ cup carrots
- 1 tomato
- ½ red pepper
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- Chicken Marinade
- 1 boneless chicken thighs
- ½ teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon Thai seasoning sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 Garnish
- 1 onions
- 1 chilli
- Before assembling the remaining ingredients, soak the bean thread noodles in a sizable dish of room temperature water for roughly 10 minutes. (Just before cooking, drain the noodles using a strainer.)
- Water, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and white pepper are all combined to make the sauce.
- In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to medium-high. Before scrambling the eggs, pour the beaten eggs into the wok and wait for about 30 seconds. Take out of the wok and place aside.
- If the wok is too dry, add a little extra cooking oil before stir-frying the chicken. Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to the chicken when it is almost done cooking.
- To the wok, add the onion and garlic. Stir-fry the food continuously until the chicken is cooked through and the onions are just beginning to turn transparent.
- Include carrots and cabbage. After a brief period of stirring, add the tomato wedges.
- Pour the sauce over the glass noodles after adding them to the skillet. Stir everything thoroughly to ensure that the sauce is distributed evenly over all of the noodles.
- Bean sprouts and scallions are then added after adding the scrambled eggs back to the wok.
- Combine all ingredients by stirring.
- Put in a serving bowl. Thai bird chili and cilantro are garnishes.