Complaint by Numbers

Vegetarian Pad Thai | August 24, 2007

While watching Good Eats the other night in an insomniac binge of food-related television, I observed as Alton Brown whipped up some pad thai. Maybe it was the late hour, or maybe it was the fact that I was in the middle of a giant salt-craving, but I decided that I needed to recreate this recipe for myself. The only problem was that Alton’s recipe (we’re on a first-name basis; we’re that close) contained fish sauce, something decidedly unvegetarian, and dried shrimp.

Now why Alton wouldn’t go over vegetarian alternatives, given that the main protein in the dish was tofu is beyond me, but with a little thought, I’ve come up with what should produce a delicious pad thai, with all of the elements of the Good Eats version.

The following recipe was taken from the Food Network website and modified slightly to meet vegetarian (not vegan) standards. All of the ingredients can be found in your local grocery store and in Asian markets.

Vegetarian Pad Thai:
1-ounce tamarind paste
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 ounces rice stick noodles
6 ounces Marinated Tofu, recipe follows
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup chopped scallions, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salted cabbage
1 tablespoon soy nuts
3 ounces bean sprouts, divided
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped, divided
Freshly ground dried red chile peppers, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges

Marinated Tofu:
6 ounces extra-firm tofu, not silken
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

Wrap the tofu firmly in a tea towel. Place the wrapped tofu into an 8-inch cake pan. Top with another cake pan and weigh down with a 5-pound weight. (Bags of dried beans or grains work well.) Place in refrigerator and press for 12 to 15 hours.
Place pressed tofu in a 2-cup container. Combine soy sauce and five-spice powder and pour over tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove the tofu from the marinade and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days.

Pad Thai:

Place the tamarind paste in the boiling water and set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Combine the fish sauce, palm sugar, and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the rice stick noodles in a mixing bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Once the other ingredients are measured out into separate bowls, drain the water from the noodles and set them aside. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch wide strips, similar to French fries.

Press the tamarind paste through a fine mesh strainer and add to the sauce. Stir to combine.

Place a wok over high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Heat until it shimmers, then add the tofu. Cook the tofu until golden brown, moving constantly, for no longer than 1 minute. Remove the tofu from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

If necessary, add some more peanut oil to the pan and heat until shimmering. Add 2/3 of the scallions and then the garlic, cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the eggs to the pan; once the eggs begin to set up, about 15 to 20 seconds, stir to scramble. Add the remaining ingredients in the following order and toss after each addition: noodles, sauce, cabbage, soy nuts, and 2/3 of the bean sprouts and peanuts. Toss everything until heated through, but no longer than 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining scallions, bean sprouts, and peanuts. Serve immediately with the ground chile peppers and lime wedges.

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Posted in Food, Recipes

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