Pad Thai is one of those dishes that seems to be everyone’s favorite except mine. I hate egg and don’t like the dearth of vegetables in the dish. As a huge condiment fan, I do love the addition of peanuts, cilantro, lime, and sriracha.
I splurged on tamarind paste for a curry recipe with the intention of using it for Pad Thai at another time. That time came about a month ago, and I am craving it once again as I write about it. It makes great leftovers eaten cold or reheated.
- El Pasoans, you can find tamarind paste at Jerusalem International Foods. You can probably also find it at other Asian markets in town.
- Can’t find tamarind paste? Make your own or use Mark Bittman’s substitute suggestion of ketchup.
- I omitted fish sauce of course, but you can make your own fishless fish sauce using Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Tamarind Paste (Source: About.com)
Dried tamarind pods are easy to find in El Paso since they are commonly used in Mexican cuisine. They can be found at most grocery stores in the produce section.
Peel off the shells and discard them. Place the fruit in a sauce pan with only a bit of water (3 to 4 tbsp. water to ¼ cup fruit) and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Remove from heat and use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to gently mash the fruit against the bottom/sides of the pan. Strain and press the fruit through a strainer to get as much pulp as possible into the liquid while straining out the seeds. Note that homemade pastes tend not to be as strong-tasting as the bottled variety.
Mark Bittman’s Fishless Fish Sauce
Makes about ½ cup
1 Tbsp crumbled or ground dulse (optional)
1 clove garlic , minced
2 Tbsps light soy sauce
1 Tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Whisk the dulse, garlic, & soy with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Grate the lime zest & juice all 4 limes into the same bowl. Add the sugar & stir well. Let sit 5 minutes for the flavors to meld.
Veggie Pad Thai (recipe adapted from Epicurious)
Makes 4-6 servings (you might want to double the sauce recipe if you want it extra saucy)
12 ounces dried flat rice noodles (1/4 inch wide; sometimes called pad Thai or banh pho)
2 teaspoons tamarind paste or ketchup
½ cup light soy sauce
¼ cup packed light brown sugar (I used only 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)
1 bunch scallions (optional)
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
peanut or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups bean sprouts (¼ pound)
½ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and cover with a dampened paper towel.
- Combine tamarind, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha, stirring until sugar has dissolved (If you’re using fish sauce, add about 1 tablespoon).
- Cut scallions into 2-inch pieces. Halve pale green and white parts lengthwise.
- Rinse tofu, then cut into 1-inch cubes and pat very dry.
- Fry tofu in a tablespoon or two of oil in 1 layer, gently turning occasionally, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer tofu to paper towels using a slotted spoon.
- Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour more oil if necessary. Stir-fry scallions and garlic, until softened, about 1 minute.
- Add noodles and stir-fry over medium heat (use 2 spatulas if necessary) 3 minutes. Add tofu, bean sprouts, and part of the sauce and simmer, turning noodles over to absorb sauce evenly, until noodles are tender, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in additional sauce if desired and serve. Sprinkle pad Thai with peanuts and serve with lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and Sriracha.