Thursday, September 19, 2019

Recipe of the month: Vegetarian Pad Thai


Victory is finally mine! After months of experimenting with this recipe, cooking far too much of it in the process while making major and subsequently minor tweaks, I'm pleased to present (what I think) is pretty authentic Pad Thai albeit a vegetarian version 😁 And yes, you can legit argue with me that Pad Thai isn't traditionally vegetarian but this is a good recipe okay! Trust me on this because over the past decade, I've eaten Pad Thai innumerable times both in Thailand and outside, some good and some bad so I know a thing or two about it. 

Pad Thai is my most favourite Thai dish and I don't see that changing any time soon. This is the dish that I evaluate all Thai restaurants by. I prefer it over a Thai green or red curry any day! I know I've said this before (read my previous post on Thai Green Curry) but I am very predictable when it comes to Thai food. I love the usual crowd pleasers - tom yum soup, spring rolls, raw mango salad, papaya salad, pad thai, khao pad, and mango sticky rice pudding. I do like the Thai-style curries but unlike my husband, they don't figure in my most favourite dishes from the cuisine. I prefer eating a small portion of rice and curry only occasionally. 


I've been failing miserably to make Pad Thai since my first visit to Thailand back in 2006 😂 I have made more blunders making this dish than I would like to recollect 😝 I've used fettuccini instead of the typical rice stick noodles (*hangs head in shame*), on the occasions I've used rice noodles, I've overcooked them and turned them into mush (oops!), I assumed using peanut butter would be a good idea and have been heavy-handed with it (ugh!), I've shied away from using tofu (big mistake), been woefully ignorant about how important tamarind is (*rolls eyes*), I've used tomato ketchup in the sauce (*shudders*) and either used too much or too less of soy sauce resulting in either an overpowering or bland finished product (*sighs*). Getting that perfect balance of flavours and textures seemed like an unattainable dream. Blunders aside, I convinced myself that not using fish sauce or shrimp was never going to make my Pad Thai taste authentic anyway but I soon realized I was mistaken. 

Let me tell you what I learned during this recipe testing endeavor, 
  • You need to use the right kind of noodles folks. It has to be flat rice noodles. Not rice vermicelli or any wheat-based noodle. My two cents - if you don't have the right kind of noodles then its not worth making this dish. If you do, please don't call it Pad Thai coz that's just insulting 😆 It is critical that the noodles have to be cooked until pliable but al dente. They have to be drained, rinsed with cold water, drained again and tossed with a little oil until use
  • Aromatics like fresh ginger and garlic provide great flavour so don't skimp. The Thai bird’s eye chilli is not mandatory (you can use dried red chilli flakes) but it does give that tantalizing fiery kick which is commonly associated with Thai food.
  • I have found that tamarind is the  magic ingredient in this recipe. It gives the required sourness and also helps to impart some color. I have the concentrated bottled extract which I dissolve in hot water but even better if you can use it in its dried fruit form and soak it in hot water until you get the extract
  • I like to use the Lee Kum Kee brand of premium light soy sauce because it is really good. I’m not sure if dark soy sauce will work as well. Regarding the other sauces, fish sauce and oyster sauce are commonly added but you can either skip them or buy the vegetarian substitutes 
  • You just have to add eggs (if you consume it)! I believe that eggs in Pad Thai are an important ingredient.They add a kind of creaminess to the dish which makes it so delicious. In case you are vegan, use soft tofu
  • Bean sprouts and roasted peanuts are an absolute MUST! Incorporate them into the noodles and even add some more on the side while serving. The crunchy texture makes for a delightful addition.
  • Brown sugar adds that much needed mellow sweetness to round out the flavour. You could use jaggery powder instead as well. White sugar is not a good substitute so if you don’t have brown sugar, go to the supermarket and get it 😛
  • The addition of tofu is important too. Use an extra-firm tofu and shallow fry till brown on both sides.
  • Greens like spring onion (or chives) and cilantro not only add color but also add freshness and flavour
  • I find that I don't really need the lime but my husband disagrees so by all means, squeeze away!
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This recipe doesn't have too many ingredients (and none of the ingredients are expensive!) so make sure you have everything before you start. From start to finish you can easily be done in an hour so this can feature in your weekly or weekend menu. 

If you have made up your mind to try out this recipe, I'm excited for you! Let me know how it goes 😊

Vegetarian Pad Thai

Preparation time: 15 min; Cooking time: 30 min
Total time: ~ 45 min
Serves: 4-5
Recipe category: Thai/Main Course
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

Mix together in a medium-sized bowl:
2 tbsp sriracha
1 cup tamarind puree (I dissolve 1 tsp thick tamarind concentrate in 1 cup hot water)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar or jaggery powder
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp vegetarian oyster sauce
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce, Optional
1/2 tsp salt 
1-1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
***********************************************************
400 gm wide rice stick noodles (bánh pho)
2 tsp + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 package (300 gm) extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 eggs, whisked
1-2 fresh bird’s eye chili, finely chopped (adjust according to spice tolerance)
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed & drained
1 cup diagonally cut spring onion greens or chives
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts, reserve some for serving 
4-5 lime wedges, for serving 
Dry red chilli flakes, for serving 

Method: 

1. Combine first 8 ingredients; whisk well and set aside.


2. Cook noodles in boiling water for 7 minutes or until just about done (do not over cook!). Drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain completely. Toss with a little oil and keep aside.


3. Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu; cook 10 minutes or so until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.


4. Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chilli, and sauté for 10 seconds. 

5. Add egg mixture, and cook for 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. 



6. Stir in chili sauce mixture and noodles; cook for 2-3 minutes. 


7. Stir in tofu, bean sprouts, spring onions, and half of the cilantro, and cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.



8. Sprinkle the rest of the cilantro and peanuts evenly over each serving of noodle mixture. Or you can heap the peanuts at the side of the plate. 


9. Serve with red chilli flakes, peanuts and lime wedges.


10. Enjoy hot!


Notes:
  • You can use chilli garlic sauce or hot sauce if you don't have sriracha
  • Authentic Pad Thai has fish sauce so if you are okay with using it, you can add it along with the first 8 ingredients mentioned in the recipe
  • I suggest you use brown sugar itself and don't substitute with white sugar
  • Be very careful not to overcook the noodles otherwise they will turn out mushy. And try to lightly toss while mixing so as to avoid breaking up the noodles
  • If you need more veggies, you could add in carrots and baby bok choy


Cheers,
Megha

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing recipe instructions in detail. Even the image appeals to me, and I planned to give a try immediately. Because it's one of my favorite, I'll make the vegetarian pad thai recipe on a frequent basis. I'll always look for the best recipe online and make it myself. Now I believe that I've discovered yet another amazing pad thai recipe.

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