During one year that I lived in Arkansas, I developed a massive Pad Thai obsession. Probably due to the fact that I was working full time and also pursuing my MBA online at night, and there was an Asian fusion restaurant that delivered to my house. I was always crunched for time, and definitely got to know the delivery folks there on a first name basis.
I've tried several recipes in an attempt to recreate this favorite of mine, but many turn out too sweet or just not the same. So, I went rogue and did a little experimenting. This is my favorite version thus far, and all of the ingredients are easily found at most supermarkets. The only ingredient that may not be widely carried is tamarind, but lime juice will solve this dilemma deliciously.
I have mixed emotions about tofu sometimes, but I do love it in my Pad Thai. When seared in sesame oil, it is quite tasty. If you aren't into this meat substitute, you can skip it and make your dish with chicken, shrimp, or non of the above instead. I usually make it with a mix of chicken and tofu, but I just wasn't feeling meat the day I made this batch. It was delicious, and even my 6'3" carnivore fiancé didn't miss the meat.
Spicy Pad Thai
Yield: 6 Servings
- 1 box rice noodles (12-14oz)
- 1 package of tofu (cut into cubes) or shrimp or chicken
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil (plus a splash for noodles)
- 2-3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 cups napa cabbage (chopped)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste (or lime juice)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 cup garlic chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste (or fresh ginger, finely minced)
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1/4 cup green onions (chopped)
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (chopped)
You can make this a one pot dish by using only a wok, but trying to brown tofu in a wok is enough to put me into a straight rage. So, I use my trusty cast iron skillet to sear tofu and/or meat, then work with a wok later. If you don't have a wok, you can do everything in a skillet as well. I just like using my massive wok at the end to toss the noodles.
Start with making the liquid sauce by whisking together honey, rice wine vinegar, tamarind (or lime juice), fish sauce, garlic chili sauce, and ginger paste. Set sauce aside for later.
Prepare rice noodles by boiling water, removing water from heat, and dumping noodles in. Let them sit in the hot water for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Strain and toss in a splash of sesame oil (so they won't stick together), set aside for later.
Heat sesame oil in a cast iron skillet on medium high, then throw in cubed tofu and sear until golden. For shrimp, this will only take a few minutes (about 3-5), chicken will take longer (about 10-20 minutes). Remove from skillet and set aside.
Heat a wok to medium high, transfer into it about a tablespoon of sesame oil from the skillet, and add the garlic. Cook for 1-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add eggs and more sesame oil (if necessary) and scramble.
Once the eggs are scrambled, add napa cabbage. Sauté cabbage until tender, adding part of the set aside sauce mixture if it starts to stick. Add noodles and the rest of the sauce mixture. Cook another 3-5 minutes, tossing until noodles are well coated and have asborded most of the sauce.
Top each serving with cilantro, green onions, and roasted peanuts, or mix into the noodles after removing from heat. Garnish with lime wedges. Enjoy!