If you think about Thai food — which is something I do with alarming regularity — the Thai food you think about first is probably Pad Thai. — That is as it should be. — Pad Thai is probably most Americans’ introduction to Thai cuisine, an authentic street food that is easily accessible to the American palate.

It’s got noodles, it’s got shrimp (or chicken or pork or tofu), it’s got peanuts and eggs. It’s a little bit tart, a little bit sweet. It can be spicy, too, but it doesn’t have to be.

It’s basically everything you want on a single plate, topped off with a squeeze or two of lime.

In Thailand, it started as a street food that was popular at stalls from Hat Yai all the way up to Mae Sai. In recent years, though, it has also been embraced in Thai restaurants, too, though it remains as popular as ever on the street.

The Pad Thai you will find in Thailand is similar to the American version, with a few notable differences. It is likely to be sweeter than we typically like in an entree; Thais love their food to be sweet. It will probably be spicier than the neutral American version, too. And if it is made with shrimp, the shrimp may well still have their heads attached.

When I was at an Asian market a couple of weeks ago buying a few ingredients to make this dish, a woman asked why I was buying shrimp with the heads removed rather than un-decapitated shrimp.

“Because I’m cooking for other people,” I said.

Despite my insatiable fondness for Pad Thai, I had never made it before. And so I set out to look for a recipe that matched the perfect combination of tastes and textures that I had in my head.

The quest was actually harder than I thought. Some recipes had ketchup in them. Some were way too involved, with more ingredients than you’d want to put together in a week of cooking, much less a single dish commonly made by street vendors. Others had so few ingredients that the taste could not possibly approach true Pad Thai.

One cooked the shrimp first and kept it in the wok or skillet the entire time the other ingredients were cooking. That’s fine, if you like rubbery shrimp.

So I took a little bit from one recipe, a dash from another and maybe a technique from a third to create my own version.

But first, a word about a couple of the ingredients: Pad Thai has a subtle undertone of tartness. That comes primarily from tamarind, which you can find at international markets. I bought it in concentrated paste form, but you can also get it already mixed with water, sold either on the shelf or frozen.

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Tamarind pulp is also available dried and vacuum packed. You can reconstitute this yourself with water if you want to go through a lot of effort.

The noodles used for Pad Thai are also available at international markets, although some well-stocked grocery stores with a strong international selection may also carry them. They should be flat rice noodles, about the width of linguine. These are not boiled: just soften them by soaking them in warm water for several minutes.

And while you are at the international store buying tamarind paste and rice noodles, you may as well look for sweet or pickled radish. This brings a salty-sweet flavor to the dish, kind of like sweet pickles. It is by no means necessary for Pad Thai, but it is inexpensive and will give you an authentic Thai flavor.

Pad Thai is a stir-fry, which means it all comes together quickly. For that reason, it is imperative to have all of your ingredients at hand before you begin.

Mine probably took less than 15 minutes to cook. It had just enough egg, just enough tamarind, just enough shrimp, just enough noodles and possibly not quite enough garlic.

But it was good. It was awfully good. I suspect it would be welcomed from Kanchanaburi all the way over to Ubon Ratchathani.

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