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Start with soaking the dry noodles in lukewarm or room temperature water while preparing the other ingredients. Getting the noodles just right is the trickiest part of making Pad Thai. Make sure that the noodles are submerged in plenty of water. By the time you are ready to put ingredients in the pan, the noodles should be flexible but not mushy.
Use a wok. If you do not have a wok, any big pot will do. Heat it up on high heat and pour oil in the wok. Fry the peanuts until toasted and remove them from the wok. The peanuts can be toasted in the pan without oil as well.
Julienne tofu and cut into 1 inch long matchsticks. When cut, the super firm tofu/pressed tofu should have a mozzarella cheese consistency. You can fry the tofu separately until golden brown and hard, or you can fry with other ingredients below.
Cut the Chinese chives into 1 inch long pieces. Set aside a few fresh chives for a garnish. Rinse the bean sprouts and save half for serving fresh. Mince shallot and garlic together.
Add shallot, garlic and tofu and stir them until they start to brown.
[The noodles should be flexible but not expanded at this point.]
Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Stir quickly to keep things from sticking. Add tamarind, sugar, fish sauce and chili pepper. Stir. The heat should remain high. If your wok is not hot enough, you will see a lot of juice in the wok at this point. Turn up the heat, if it is the case.
Make room for the egg by pushing all noodles to the side of the wok. Crack the egg onto the wok and scramble it until it is almost all cooked. Fold the egg into the noodles.
The noodles should be soft and chewy. Pull a strand out and taste. If the noodles are too hard (not cooked), add a little bit of water. When you get the right taste, add shrimp and stir. Sprinkle white pepper around. Add bean sprouts and chives. Stir a few more times. The noodles should be soft, dry and very tangled.
Pour onto the serving plate and sprinkle with ground pepper and peanuts. Serve hot with a wedge of lime on the side, raw Chinese chives and raw bean sprouts on top.
As always, in Thailand, condiments such as sugar, chili pepper, vinegar and fish sauceare available at your table for your personal taste. Some people add more chili pepper or sugar at the table.