Zucchini-noodle Pad Thai



ผัดไทย (Pad Thai) – bringing authentic Thai street food to your table – with a twist.


“Tick, tick, tick”-  that sound was my first encounter with Pad Thai.

It was a few lifetimes ago, on one of my first holidays outside Europe. I had been in the country only a few hours and was waking up from a jet lagged coma in a tiny Bangkok hotel room.

At first I wasn’t sure whether the “tick, tick, tick” belonged to the world of my dreams or this exotic foreign land. I lifted a dream heavy hand to pull back the curtains (not too hard to do, as the room was only a few centimetres wider than the bed). The world outside had changed whilst I had been napping:  night had fallen and the day’s desolate street had tuned into a bright and buzzing stage.

There was a crowd in a circle on the street below.  At the heart of all, there was a little aluminium cart. Blue flames licking a wok. A man industriously working a stir-fry.

“Tick, tick, tick” and moments later I was holding a little square plastic tub. At first I was a little disappointed, that all this anticipation delivered no more than a few noodles, some bits of chicken and a few diced veg. But then I used my flimsy chopsticks to slide a bite into my mouth; an amazing flavour explosion hit me: sweet first, followed by spicy- salty and then the lightest touch of sour.

I experimented for a while with different recipes to get as close as I could to the memory of that taste. This time I combined the traditional flavours of Pad Thai with one of my newer discoveries: zucchini noodles. I was amazed how well they worked in this dish. If you do not feel inclined to take a julienne cutter – even better a spiral cutter – to a zucchini, this recipe works just as well with the customary rice noodles.

A plate of Pad Thai always takes me down memory lane for a few moments. But then it mainly makes me smile at all those new discoveries and adventures that lie ahead.

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional

Tamarind, fish sauce and brown sugar are a must, but the shrimp are optional


Serves 2

1-2 zucchini (or rice noodles)
150g raw prawns
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamarind sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of dried chilli
optional: 2 level tbsp dried shrimp
spring onion
1/2 red onion or 1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli
black pepper
100g bean sprouts
2 eggs
1 lime



  1. If making zucchini noodles: Use a spiral- or julienne cutter to cut the zucchini into noodles. When using a spiral cutter, break the strands about three times as they are too hard to eat when they are too long.
  2. If using rice noodles: bring water to the boil and prepare the noodles according to packet instruction.
  3. Peel and devein the prawns.
  4. In a small pan combine the lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind sauce and brown sugar. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and taste – add more of any of the ingredients as you wish. Season with dried chilli to taste. Set aside.
  5. If using dried shrimp: Pour some of the boiling water on the shrimp. Allow to sit 10 minutes.
  6. Thinly slice the spring onion.
  7. Chop the coriander.
  8. Slice onion into very thin half moon slices.
  9. Deseed and chop the chilli.
  10. Fry onion, chilli, garlic on a high heat until just soft.
  11. Drain the dried pawns and add, keeping the heat high.
  12. Add the noodles to the hot pan. Heat until the zucchini wilts (You are looking for the texture of al dente pasta.)
  13. Add the sauce.
  14. Push the noodles to the side. Add the prawns and black pepper. Cook until the prawns are just pink.
  15. Toss in the bean sprouts. Move all to the side again.
  16. Add the eggs. Pierce the yolks and, when they start to set on the bottom, scramble. Stir vigorously until almost set and then mix into the noodles.
  17. Add half spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  18. Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with remaining spring onion and coriander (and peanuts).
  19. Cut the lime in the wedges and serve on the side.

Serve with

  •  this is a dish of its own right, but you can add
  •  steamed bok choy
  •  Thai fish cakes


Replace the prawns with a combination of chicken and tofu

Some of the health benefits
Click on the links to discover some of the health benefits of bean sprouts or zucchini

  1. What a delicious low-carb option. Thanks for the recipe!

    • afracooking said:

      Zucchini noodles really are one of the most amazing carb replacements I know!

  2. Hilda said:

    Delicious option, and a great way to use up the stack of zucchini when they are in season here.

    • afracooking said:

      Zucchini noodles are a great way to turn stacks of zucchinis into platefulls of deliciousness 🙂

  3. Liz said:

    I love the way you cook lots of healthy food. If only I was your neighbour, I would apply for a job as a taste taster. I love the presentation and the photo. You know I’ve never really learnt to eat with chopsticks. I have lots of them, just haven’t had the energy and enthusiasm to try. Thanks for sharing. Noodle Pad Thai!

    • afracooking said:

      I would love to have you over for dinner – just say when 🙂
      I decided a few years ago that I enjoy eating so much that I never want to have to curb my appetite or deny myself pleasure…but I also want to stay healthy and keep my shape. So instead of focusing on “not eating” I focussed on “eating more”- more vegetables, more pulses and more alternative grains…and more satisfaction 🙂

      • Liz said:

        I am trying hard to follow your footsteps…one day I’ll get there!!! I’ve been eating more veggies in 2014 for sure. Have a good night!

    • afracooking said:

      Thank you so much, Angie!

  4. yorkvillexpress said:

    So good yummy!

    • afracooking said:

      So nice to see you drop by and leave a comment….and such a nice one at that 🙂

  5. Yum this is such a creative take on pad thai! I really want to make this now 🙂

    • afracooking said:

      I’ll happily swap you a portion for those amazing coyo choco treats 🙂

  6. My folks went to Thailand last year. There were two things they raved about, from the food & spices, to the massages. It was heavenly by all accounts! Love your descriptive words about travelling & waking up in a foreign land. Reminds me of the time my guy & I arrived into Vietnam late at night and devoured our first meal!

    • afracooking said:

      Oh your comment brought back a caleidoscope of memories: the food in thailand is mindblowing and so are the massages (I still remember my favourite masseuse smelling of cookies and coconut oil). And vietnam: the first night braving the traffic to be rewarded with a spicy plate of noodles! I have to go back to Vietnam – what were your favourite places (foodie or otherwise?)

  7. Karen said:

    I love Thai flavors and know how good your zucchini noodles are in your delicious dish. It seems we both have created similar dishes recently. I have used spaghetti squash as well as zucchini and carrot in dishes as the noodles and know how well they work. Well done…I can’t wait to try your version. 🙂

    • afracooking said:

      “Great minds….. ” 😉 And I am certainly giving your recipe a try – it looks fabulous!

  8. A great story, my friend. I love a good tasty home-made Pad Thai any day,…yours looks very scrumptious too. x

    • afracooking said:

      Thank you sweetie! x

  9. Looks like a delicious and healthy version of a take-out favorite.

    • afracooking said:

      It really is amazing how simple it is to make at home.

    • afracooking said:

      That is so sweet of you to say!

  10. I love pad thai! Anytime I go to a thai restaurant I alway order it! Your dish looks really yummy…

    • afracooking said:

      It really is such a fabulous dish – sweet, spciy all in one bowl!

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