How To Make Pad Thai (Vegetarian Pad Thai Recipe)

How To Make Pad Thai (Vegetarian Pad Thai Recipe) Recipe

We made an enormous pot of phở over the weekend and called everyone who likes this Vietnamese beef soup. I think my eyes were a little bigger than my stomach because I soaked 6 packages of dried rice noodles (bánh phở) and ended up with a ton of leftovers. Even though all the beef broth was gone, I managed not to waste the soaked rice noodles by making Pad Thai noodles. The dish is composed of rice noodles, tofu, limes, fragrant kaffir lime leaves, tamarind, palm sugar, peanuts and cilantro. 

For a meat version, you could add skinless chicken breasts, whole shelled and de-veined shrimp and shredded thin omelette along with the tofu and then finish the dish with fish sauce.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1 pound dried vermicelli rice noodles (see tips)
¼ cup canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
1 (12-ounce) package medium-firm tofu
1 jicama (see tips)
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 oyster mushrooms, cut into quarters, lengthwise
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons tamarind concentrate (see tips)
10 tablespoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar), freshly grated
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1 fresh kaffir lime leaf (optional), finely chopped
2 red Thai bird chiles, to taste
¼ cup green onions
1 yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
1-½ cups bean sprouts, washed
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
½ cup roasted garlic-flavored peanuts, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 limes, (1 for garnish)


Directions

Juice 2 limes. Set aside.

Prepping the dried rice noodles: When uncooked, the glass noodles look grayish. Place the long noodles in a large bowl and soak them in cold water about 30 minutes. This step will help soften the noodles. Drain through a colander and discard the liquid. Set aside.

Prepping the fresh chiles: Stem, seed and finely chop the chile pepper. Note: Remember not to rub your eyes after touching the chile pepper seeds.

Making the Pad Thai sauce: In a small bowl, dissolve the palm sugar (or light brown sugar) in ½ cup boiling water. Let the water cool to room temperature. Add the tamarind paste, lime juice and chili garlic sauce. 

For the jicama: Peel and slice horizontally into ½-inch thick pieces. In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the jicama slices until golden brown. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the pieces into small dice. Set aside.


Preparing the tofu:

Drain the liquid from the package of the tofu. Pat dry the tofu with a paper towel. Cut the piece of tofu in half, lengthwise. Cut each block into ½-inch slices.

In a wok, heat the remaining canola oil for about 2-3 minutes. You should have about a 1-inch deep layer of oil. The key to good fried tofu is to get little bubbles when the tofu is in contact with the oil. Don't over-heat the oil; otherwise the tofu will get too golden and chewy.

Place the tofu one piece at a time in the hot oil; make sure the tofu pieces don't touch each other. Pan-fry in batches for about 2 minutes per batch until golden on all sides. Lower the heat to medium-low for even cooking and to prevent them from browning too fast. Flip each piece and cook about a minute longer. Delicately pick up each tofu piece using a spider skimmer (I used wooden chopsticks), leaving as much oil as possible in the wok.

As soon as the tofu is cooled enough to handle, cut into small dice. Set aside.


Assembly time:

In the same wok, add the ginger garlic paste and kaffir lime leaf. Cook until fragrant. Add the carrots. Stir fry until they are slightly translucent, then add the shiitake and oyster mushrooms and fresh chiles. Season with mushroom seasoning salt. Toss well. Add the tofu with the Pad Thai sauce. Stir well. Transfer to a plate.

Wash, trim and cut the green onions into 1-½"-pieces. Set aside.

Add more oil to the wok if necessary. Stir fry the green onions until it is golden. Add the drained rice noodles. Add soy sauce, the juice of half a lime and light brown sugar. Toss using spatulas positioned on either side of the wok to prevent the food from sticking to the bottom. Cook for another minute. Drizzle with about 1 cup water, then toss until the water evaporates. Check the doneness of the noodles. If they're still al dente, drizzle more water until they're the desired texture. Add the tofu, fried jicama, vegetables and onions wedges. Toss well until the onion softens. Turn off the heat. Add the bean sprouts. Cover the wok and let sit for about 2-3 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with more mushroom seasoning salt (if necessary).

Add the cilantro, finish with the remaining lime juice and drizzle a dash of sesame oil.

Sprinkle with black pepper and roasted peanuts.

Garnish with lime.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I prefer using the dried bánh phở rice noodles. I buy the Ba Co Gai (Three Ladies) brand. For this particular dish, I usually cook with large-sized flat rice noodles. You can find this brand in most Asian stores.

All the ingredients should be cut the same size so the dish looks homogeneous.

I buy garlic-flavored peanuts at the Asian market.

Make sure the temperature is always on high so the noodles don't become soggy and watery.

Jicama is a large, sweet, firm root vegetable (actually a cousin to the sweet potato) that is used in vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine to imitate juicy pork fat and pork skin (when fried). It's crunchy like an apple and filling like a potato. You can find it in most supermarket produce departments or any Vietnamese store; it's called củ sắn. You could replace jicama with water chestnuts to add crunch to the filling.

I use ginger garlic paste a lot in my cooking. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger (about a 2-inch chunk), carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the broth. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at Marina Foods -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.

The soy sauce brings saltiness to the dish and a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a good flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce, at Lion Supermarket, 1710 Tully Road, San Jose.

You can use store-bought chili garlic sauce like the one from Lee Kum Kee.

You can find tamarind concentrate in any Asian store. It has a nice tart flavor. You can also use fresh tamarind pods if you like but I find this too labor intensive. Wash about a pound of tamarind pods, with the skin still on. Boil them in about 4 cups of water for 15 minutes until soft. Drain and discard the liquid. Shell, seed and remove the fibrous membrane. Blend the tamarind pulp with about 1 to 1-½ cups of water. But as I said earlier, I just prefer eating fresh tamarind as is and cooking with tamarind concentrate or tamarind powder.

Tamarind Drink Recipe

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 28, 2011.


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