Vegetarian Pad Thai – Modified Recipe

So I have loads of people – both Tweeps and in real life – asking me for the recipe for my latest creation, my version of vegetable pad thai. Admittedly, it comes with several caveats as pad thai being my signature dish, I have had to tweak the recipe numerous times for meat lovers, seafood lovers, people allergic to seafood or nuts, and any seafood allergies also mean by default I have to change my sauces as most pad thai sauces are made in an anchovy base.

You can also use peanut sauces but if someone doesn’t like fish and is allergic to nuts, then you’ve got a real challenge. I will admit I would be stuck for a while trying to figure out something around this one.

The below recipe is a vegetarian recipe – that is, there is no seafood, and no anchovy based sauce – (give or take the eggs) but does not assume the person is allergic to nuts.

Your protein sources will come from the beans, tofu and eggs, should you opt for the eggs, and your greens in this recipe will load this one with plenty of vitamin A.

For those of you in a time crunch, you can purchase pound bags of frozen kale, spinach and collard greens easy at Whole Foods or another grocer, although it’s a bit nice and fresh buying your veggies fresh.

Cayenne and dill are optional, but I love throwing in spices all the time. Obviously these deviate from the “authenticity” of the dish, but it is what it is.

Rice sticks are also make or break here. As I live near Chinatown in Philly, I have access to Asian supermarkets with all sorts of different types and brands of rice noodles. For my recipes, I always stick to Banh Pho – the noodles are thin enough to soften during the soaking phase and cook easily in heat. If you cannot procure this type of noodle, make sure your noodles are NOT too thick otherwise you will need to soak them longer so that they cook properly in the final phase. Most mass-market store brands are thin enough, but make sure you get a rice noodle and not a wheat-based noodle.

Phew. Now without further ado:

16 oz of Banh Pho (rice sticks) noodles – usually one package
7 oz kale
5-7 oz bok choy (sometimes I will sub 5-7 oz collard green or more kale)
8 oz spinach
8 oz Wok Mei Plum Sauce (all natural if you’re picky on that, if not Kikkoman 8oz is fine)
10 oz San-J Thai Peanut Sauce
1-2 carrots
6 eggs (optional if you want to avoid any animal product)
— NOTE: healthier alternative 1 cup egg whites
1 package tofu (normal or firm) – I use the 19 oz Trader Joe’s tofu
1 can black beans (15-16 oz, most brands)
1 cup peanuts (halved or crushed)
10 oz baby corn (optional)
3 tablespoons dill weed (optional)
1 tablespoon cayenne (optional)
1 small lime (optional)

I VERY strongly recommend the use of a wok for Asian dishes and especially when you are working with a large volume of noodles. I will admit that I cook these types of dishes a lot so I decided I’d go ahead and buy one – the width of a wok as opposed to a large pot makes it a whole lot easier to make Asian noodle dishes and in large volumes at that.

If you don’t think you need one – that’s fine too. A larger pot will suffice, though you will need to watch out for the rice sticks sticking to the bottom of the pan a little more. You will have to adjust the amount of sauce you put in when you season your tofu as you’ll see later on.

Cuisinart 14-quart Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 14-Inch Stir-Fry Pan with Helper Handle and Glass Cover

Probably the most time consuming here. You will need to press your tofu at least an hour ahead of making everything else or at least as you are cutting up and prepping your fresh vegetables.

Use a tofu presser if you have one, otherwise if you are looking for a real old school method, sandwich the tofu between two dinner plates and place a few textbooks on top of them. Squeeze and drain the water out.

Remember if you have any leftover tofu, you want to preserve that in water!

Take a pot of lukewarm water and soak the noodles for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness. More thickness means more time to soak, so taste test as needed.

Whatever you do, do NOT boil the noodles!

Drain the noodles and set aside.

Wash, cut, season if you desire, and set your vegetables aside.

Note: If you have a strong preference for certain types of greens than others, that’s fine and dandy. The above volumes are what I tend to go with. The overall rule of thumb is to make sure you do NOT exceed 22-24 oz of green vegetables. If you are using frozen vegetables, most packs are in 16oz packages, so we’re talking about a package and a half.

Beat the eggs and cook and scramble them in a skillet and set aside.

If you are using egg whites, same deal except do note they tend to cook slightly faster.

My recommendation: For an even distribution of sauce across all of the pad thai, you want to mix up any sauces and spices you are using in a separate bowl. For a 16oz rice stick package, you will need to use the entire bottles for both the 10oz peanut sauce and the 8oz plum sauce. Also blend in your cayenne here. Mix and set aside.

Once the tofu is drained, it should be the first thing you put in, next will be the beans and then the vegetables. If you are using eggs in your recipe, put those in last so that they won’t get soggy or overcooked. Start off by putting roughly a third of your sauce mixture and mix your tofu and veggies in this sauce. Also helps prevent anything sticking to the bottom of the wok if that were to happen.

After that, you will start to put in small batches of noodles and mix gently. Once your noodles are in and mixed well, then pour the rest of the sauce in the entire mixture and mix well.

Season with peanuts. Most of the time they should be crushed, but if you don’t have time to do that, no worries. I generally throw them in halved. Finally top it off with a bit of lime, and enjoy!


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