Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vegetarian Pad Thai

Pad Thai is the signature noodle dish of Thai cuisine. It  is a very popular street food consisting of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, cilantro and lime juice. My daughter orders Pad Thai every time we are in a Thai or a Pan Asian restaurant. One version served in America has peanut butter in the sauce, almost mimicking an Indonesian satay sauce. Another version uses ketchup and the noodles are completely red. I personally like the authentic Pad Thai with its spicy, salty, sour and sweet balance. The spice comes from the green chilies and paprika, salty from the fish sauce, sour from the Tamarind and sweet from the brown sugar. This recipe makes a vegetarian Pad Thai substituting the soy sauce for fish sauce as well as the meat and is pretty close to perfect. Once you try it you might tend to agree.

It is a wonderful one dish dinner which requires no accompaniments at all, but if you have a family like mine, then a side order of frozen veggie dumplings would be great. We devour the ones from Trader Joes.

Pad thai
6 ounces pad thai noodles or rice sticks
2 ounces lite firm tofu, cut into ½ -inch dice
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts (I like them left whole, but you could lightly crush them)
½ tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 large organic egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon very finely minced lemongrass, only the inner tender bit
1 teaspoon minced green chilies
2 teaspoons chopped shallots
1 ½ teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves + more for garnish
1 ½ cups bean sprouts
1 medium sized carrot grated
1 ¼ cups finely shredded napa cabbage (green cabbage can be substituted)

One lime, cut into wedges to serve

Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 ½  tablespoons lime juice 
1 ½  tablespoons tamarind paste  + 1 ½ tablespoons water 
½ teaspoon paprika or cayenne (depending on your tolerance for spice)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar loosely packed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce slightly and set aside to cool. Reserve. (The sauce gets too thick if too cool - so don't make it too much in advance)

Salty and Spicy Sauce
3 tablespoons low sodium  soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar (regular unseasoned rice vinegar can be substituted)
1 tablespoon water 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic 
2 teaspoons finely minced serrano chiles or any other hot chili (remove the seeds if you don’t like it spicy)
3 tablespoon minced cilantro leaves
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients above and stir until well blended. Keep aside.

  1. Soak the rice noodles in cold water until softened, about 30 minutes. (This can be done several hours ahead of time.) Strain and reserve until needed. 
  2. In a small skillet, heat ½ tablespoon butter. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Make an omelet. Cool and cut into strips.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large wok. Sauté the diced tofu until golden on both sides about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.
  4. In the same wok, over high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil. When hot, add the lemongrass, green chilies, shallots, ginger, lemon zest, and cilantro and stir fry for 1 minute. Then add the shredded carrots, shredded cabbage and sauté for 2 minutes till the cabbage is crisp tender. [If you are using green cabbage it may take a little longer to cook.] Then add ¾ cup bean sprouts, 2 tablespoon of the sweet and sour sauce and the salty and spicy sauce and the softened noodles and stir well to mix the sauce with the vegetables and noodles. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes till the noodles are cooked. If the mixture is not wet enough to cover the noodles, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Add the fried tofu, and the omelet strips. Mix well. Garnish with the peanuts, cilantro and the remaining bean sprouts.
  5. Serve warm with a slice of lime.
Serves 3           

Note: A large wok or skillet and high heat is essential to get the perfect pad thai, otherwise the noodles will become sticky. Also, it is important to make it in batches if you are planning to double this recipe.

Other noodle dishes that you might like Stir fried rice noodles

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I used to put peanut butter, so it would be all gooey, but now I know to just put peanuts.