I've been working on a good Pad Thai recipe for years. Trouble is, when I was young, though I don't really remember it, I lived in Thailand so my flavor expectations are high. My mom cooked in our Thai kitchen and in my opinion, has one heck of a good palate for Asian food, particularly Thai.
So here's the challenge for living up to high Pad Thai expectations: real, authentic, Thai style Pad Thai is complex, and often uses ingredients such as tamarind paste, palm sugar, garlic chives and sweet radish...not exactly items in the typical pantry or fridge.
But I think I've found a simple flavor combination that mimics much of what I love about Pad Thai: the salty, yet somewhat sweet, full flavors of noodles, vegetables and herbs in a tangy sauce.
I think this Pad Thai rocks, yet doesn't require anything too hard to find at your local well-stocked grocery store.
Homemade Pad Thai
12 ounces thick rice noodles
2 tablespoons fish sauce*
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 cup broccoli, cut into very small florets
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 - 15 ounce can baby corn, drained
1 cup bean sprouts
3 green onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp, chicken or any protein you choose (optional)
1 egg (optional)
crushed peanuts (optional)
fresh chopped cilantro
Prepare the noodles: Place the noodles in a large bowl. Pour enough boiling water over the noodles to cover them. Let the noodles sit for about 10 minutes, or until they have softened, but are not yet al dente or cooked as full as you would cook pasta (you need to have them less than fully softened, so they can finish in the stir-fry pan without falling apart). Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: mix the fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice and red pepper flakes in a jar with a lid. Close tightly and shake well.
Next, in a large skillet or stir-fry pan, add the oil and heat to medium high. Add the tofu and brown, cooking 2-3 minutes and flipping to brown the other sides. Once cooked, remove from heat.
Add the broccoli, carrots, baby corn, bean sprouts, green onions and garlic to the pan. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly tender. Reduce the heat to medium, if necessary. Remove from the pan.
**If using another protein, add a touch more oil and cook now in the pan and remove from the pan. If using the egg, cook now in the pan, but do not remove from the pan.**
Add the tofu, vegetables and noodles to the pan. Shake the sauce and pour over everything. Stir-fry for another minute or two or until all the ingredients have been incorporated with the sauce and the items are all heated through.
Top with crushed peanuts and cilantro, if using.
*If you want to keep this recipe vegan, use additional soy sauce in lieu of the fish sauce. Fish sauce is very pungent, but tastes deliciously tangy in recipes!
Life is sweet,