Thai-Style Stir-Fried Macaroni (Pad Macaroni)

Pad Macaroni with Chicken
Thai-Style Stir-Fried Macaroni with Chicken (Pad Macaroni Gai). Danette St. Onge
Ratings
  • Total: 80 mins
  • Prep: 65 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

I debated for a while about whether or not to post this recipe, because while its main ingredient is one of the most quintessentially Italian of ingredients -- macaroni -- it is not technically an Italian dish. But neither is it really Thai.

It is Thai-Italian fusion, in essence, and while I frankly think most fusion fare is a failure that takes elements from two or more cuisines and then somehow loses everything that's good about all of them, this is an exception that really succeeds.

And so, in the end, I decided to share it for the simple reason that this dish is absolutely delicious. I personally think it's better than Pad Thai. In fact, I've never  really understood why Pad Thai is the most popular Thai dish with foreigners, but this stir-fried dish ("pad" means "stir-fried" in Thai) does have several elements in common with Pad Thai: it involves stir-fried noodles with either chicken or shrimp in a savory and somewhat sweet sauce, and it's not particularly spicy. In fact, it's very popular with Thai children, probably because it's not very spicy.

I have fond, nostalgic childhood memories of ordering Pad Macaroni at every chance I got while growing up in Bangkok, and I'm sure many other people do as well. I have no idea when this dish originated in Thailand, but it's been around for at least 30 years and yes, I just revealed my great age. 

I know that most Italians will probably recoil in horror when they see the ingredients in this dish, but try not to think of it as pasta -- it's essentially a Thai noodle dish that happens to be made with pasta. Try to suspend your disbelief and give it a shot! I promise you that it is quick, easy, and fantastic.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces (250 grams) macaroni (Thais use straight, smooth macaroni noodles about 1 1/4 inches long (when dry -- they are about 3 inches long when cooked), which for some reason are a bit difficult to find in some countries. You can also use bucatini/perciatelli or bigoli broken into 1- to 2-inch lengths, ziti, mostacciolior penne instead. Don't use elbow macaroni, of American mac 'n' cheese fame, because they are too small and curved.)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup (I know, I know! When I have it on hand, I use Stokes Bloody Mary Ketchup, which has a bit of a savory kick, but if you can't find that, you can use any spicy ketchup, or regular ketchup plus a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of Tabasco sauce.)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (Try to use a true Thai Sriracha sauce, rather than the Vietnamese-American Huy Fong version, which has a very different taste and is much thicker, spicier and less sweet, tangy, and garlicky than true Sriracha sauces from Sriracha, Thailand); I'd start with 1 tablespoon and add more later if you prefer the dish spicier, though it usually is not served very spicy at all.)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon vegetable oil (for stir-frying)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and finely minced)
  • 1 onion (peeled and julienned into thin slices)
  • 1/2 carrot (peeled and cut into thin slices)
  • 9 ounces/250 grams chicken breast (cut into bite-sized pieces (you can also use pork or shrimp, if using shrimp, quickly stir-fry the shrimp separately and stir in together with the noodles at the end, before serving)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 scallions (root and tips trimmed, white parts halved lengthwise and cut into 2-3 inch lengths, green parts cut into 2-3 inch lengths (keep them separate because you will add the white parts and green parts at different times)
  • 2 tomatoes (cored and each cut into 8 wedges)
  • Garnish: ground ​pepper (white ground, to taste, for serving)

Steps to Make It

Place a large pot of water over high heat to boil for the pasta. (When the water reaches a rolling boil, add a bit of salt and the pasta and cook the pasta until just about 1 minute short of al dente.)

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, mix the ketchup (plus a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of Tabasco, if using), Sriracha, soy sauce, and fish sauce well until combined. Set aside.

In a large wok, heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the garlic and stir-fry briskly until light golden-brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the onion and carrot and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are softened, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken and white parts of the scallions and continue stir-frying until the meat is brown and loses its pink color and the scallion whites are softened, about 3-4 minutes. 

Push all the ingredients in the wok to the sides of the wok with a wooden spoon. Break the egg into the space in the middle and lightly stir-fry/scramble it (it's OK if there are still some separate bits of white and yolk) for about 30 seconds, then toss it together with the rest of the ingredients until evenly distributed.

Add the cooked and well-drained pasta to the wok, add the sauce and toss everything well until the macaroni is evenly coated with sauce. 

Add the tomatoes and scallion greens and continue stir-frying just until the tomatoes and scallion greens are slightly softened, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of white pepper on top, to taste.