Vegetarian Pad Thai

Authentic Pad Thai at home

Vegetarian Pad Thai
Pad Thai is a classic Thai noodle dish

I will admit, that the first time I had authentic Pad Thai, I didn’t like it. I was in Bangkok; it was my first trip to Asia and perhaps I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the locally prepared dish? Or perhaps as I wasn’t feeling 100%, I’d have been inclined to reject any food offered to me? Perhaps I didn’t like that they had left the tails on the prawns? (Yes, you’re reading a vegetarian recipe, I however am not vegetarian). Whatever it was, despite originally finding it distasteful, authentic Pad Thai has become one of my regular meals. I now find that anything on offer in my home country to be disappointing. For the occasions that I can’t afford a plane ticket, I have developed some recipes for my (now) favourite dishes so that I can enjoy authentic flavour at home.

This recipe for Pad Thai is not as difficult as it looks, although it is important to pay attention to the quality of the ingredients. Pad Thai is commonly made with chicken or seafood. This is a vegetarian version and I have used tofu. It is not vegan as it contains eggs. To make my vegetarian Pad Thai you will need:

For the noodles

  • 200g flat rice stick noodles
  • 3 shallots sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 1 piece of ginger (half the size of your thumb) grated
  • Half a red capsicum, sliced
  • 3 cayenne peppers sliced
  • 1 large field mushroom peeled and cut into bit size pieces
  • 1 handful of coriander roughly shredded
  • 1 large handful of bean sprouts
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g firm tofu cut into cubes
  • A splash of olive or avocado oil
  • A drizzle of sesame oil

For the sauce

  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 2 TBS light soy sauce
  • 3 TBS fish sauce
  • 2 TBS peanut butter
  • 1 TBS tamarind paste

For serving

  • Cucumber slices
  • Tomato wedges
  • Lime wedges
  • A few sprigs of mint
  • Peanuts
  • Other reserved ingredients that will be mentioned soon

As I mentioned, the quality of the ingredients is important. Jars of pre-minced garlic and ginger are not a substitute for fresh ingredients. I’d go as far as saying, avoid buying garlic and ginger from the supermarket at all, as it is usually lower quality. Instead, go to a green-grocer or if possible, a local producer.

The herbs should also be as fresh as possible. Fresh herbs can be expensive and in some areas, difficult to get. I try to grow as much of my own herbs as possible, but it has been difficult this year and I have only succeeded with mint. Good old, trusty, impossible to kill, mint.

The quality of your sauces is equally important. A general rule I follow when buying soy sauce is that the list of ingredients should start with “soya beans” and be followed by no more than three other ingredients. If the bottle you have picked up has an extensive list of ingredients beginning with “soy protein” put it back. For my sriracha I only buy Hoy Fong brand and I prefer Squid Brand fish sauce.

Preparation is the only way to succeed in the kitchen and nowhere is this more obvious than in Asian cooking. The speed at which the cooking takes place makes it impossible without thorough preparation. Any ingredients that are added at the same time get prepared and put in a bowl together. I like to line up the bowls of ingredients next to the wok in the order they will be used. Also have your tools ready, you will need two wooden spoons and a pair of chopsticks. Are we ready? Let’s do this.

  1. Prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions. Every brand has a different method and it is important that you follow the directions on the packet. Once the noodles are cooked, drain them and rinse them in cold water to stop them cooking further. Stir though the sesame oil to prevent them sticking and set them aside.
  2. While the noodles are cooking prepare the other ingredients. Cut the tofu and set it aside on a plate. Prepare the shallots, garlic, ginger, capsicum, chilli and mushroom. Reserve a couple of pinches of shallots and a pinch of sliced chilli and put them separately on a plate for use as garnish. Put the remainder together in a bowl.
  3. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in another bowl
  4. In yet another bowl, combine the bean sprouts and the coriander. Reserve a good pinch of coriander and put it with the chilli and shallot that you reserved for garnish.
  5. Take a break, breath, read ahead so you can make sure you have the ingredients lined up and ready beside your wok. When you’re certain you’re ready to begin cooking finish preparing your garnishes; slice the cucumber, shred the mint, cut the limes and tomatoes and add them to the plate of reserved coriander, chilli and shallot.
  6. Heat the olive oil in a wok over a high heat. Swirl the oil in the wok to ensure that the edges are coated, then add the tofu. Stir fry the tofu until it begins to get a slightly golden colour. This could take several minutes.
  7. Add the bowl of vegetables (capsicum, garlic, mushrooms et cetera) to the wok and stir continuously for two or three minutes, until the garlic and ginger has become aromatic and the capsicum has just started to soften.
  8. Push all the ingredients in the wok to one side and crack the two eggs in the centre. Once the eggs start to cook, use your chopsticks to scramble them. Once the eggs have firmed up, bring the vegetables back to the centre of the wok and toss them through the egg. I like to do this using a wooden spoon in my right hand and the chopsticks in my left.
  9. Once the egg and vegetables are combined add the sauce mixture. Stir this through until it is heated then add the noodles. The best way that I have found for combining noodles and vegetables together with sauce is by using two spoons and tossing it like it was a salad. Once all these ingredients are well combined, add the bean sprouts and coriander and toss through. Remove wok from the heat.
  10. Serve on a plate beside the cucumber, tomato and lime. Garnish with shallots, chilli, coriander, mint and peanuts.

I’m not going to do what other recipe writers do and try to tell you how many servings this will make, that’s entirely up to your own appetite. I will say that it will make three generous plates. Squeeze the lime over your plate to suit your own taste (I like my lime). The amount of garnish you add is also up to your own personal taste. Pad Thai is one of those dishes that you can continually make variations of. This, however, is the variation I enjoy the most.

Rachael Robinson
Rachael Robinson
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