Vegetarian Pad Thai. It’s good, it’s quick and it’s easy. And this is coming from a meat eater.
If you know me, you know that I love to cook, and it was only a matter of time before I shared my recipes on this blog. Here’s my recipe for vegetarian Pad Thai that is fit for meat eaters. I am not a vegetarian. I love eating meat, fish and chicken, but I also love the challenge of cooking meatless dishes for my vegetarian friends and loved ones.
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Cut, season and bake the tofu: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit (about 200 degrees celsius). While the oven warms up, cut 1 lb. (about 500 grams) of firm/extra firm tofu into 32 thin triangles. To do this, slice the whole block into 8 rectangular planks, and then and then cut each plank in half to make 2 squares per plank (for a total of 16 squares). Finally, cut each square on the diagonal to make 2 triangular pieces.
To cut the tofu into 8 even slices, I first cut it in half (two very thick pieces), then I cut each half in half (this gives me 4 slightly thick pieces), and lastly, I cut each of the 4 pieces in half (leaving me with 8 thin pieces).
Now, arrange the tofu triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil (or vegetable oil), and sprinkle 1/2 tsp. of salt and whatever spices (i.e my favorites include black pepper, curry powder, savory spice blends, paprika, chili powder, etc.) and herbs (oregano, etc.) you happen to have in your pantry on top. The idea is to compensate for tofu’s inherent lack of flavor. Once you’ve spiced up your tofu, put it in the oven for about 45 minutes. You want to dehydrate the tofu so that it becomes just a little firmer on the outside. You can check for doneness by poking it with your finger. It should give, but just a little bit, and maybe be a bit tough in the corners.
This is approximately what your tofu should look like before you bake it.
This is approximately your tofu should look like when it’s done baking.
2) Prepare the rice noodles for the stir fry: While the tofu is baking, soak 8 oz (250 grams) of dry rice noodles. Just put them in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Let them sit while you do everything else.
3) Make the sauce: This is an odd one. Traditional pad thai calls for fish sauce, and, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing else that tastes quite like it. However, it isn’t used alone, but is combined with other flavors, and the real goal isn’t to replicate fish sauce, but to replicate the final mixture, and that can be done quite simply. The idea is to create something that is tangy (acidic), sweet, spicy, salty and rich, all at the same time. To do that, combine the following ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup:
- The juice of two limes (about 1/4 of a cup)
- 2 Tbs. demerara sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1 Tbs. sriracha sauce
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
Shockingly, that does the trick. The limes are tangy, the sugar is sweet and rich, the sriracha is spicy and rich and the soy sauce is salty and rich. It’s that simple. No special trips to the asian market required. If I could patent this part of the recipe, I would.
4) Prep the vegetables: Divide one large onion in half and then cut each half into thin slices. Shred one large carrot. Mince two cloves of garlic. Mince about 1/2 a cup of cilantro (coriander) and about 1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts.
5) Cook the eggs: Crack three eggs into a small bowl, sprinkle with salt, pepper and any additional herbs (again, oregano goes well here) and spices (again, chili powder or curry powder go well here). These additional seasonings are non-traditional, but it’s one way to compensate for the lack of meat and dried shrimp. Whisk everything together with a fork and cook the eggs in a large non-stick pan (I use a cast iron skillet, but use whatever you have) in a single layer over medium heat. If you’re skilled in the art of the spatula, try to flip the eggs. Otherwise, wait till they are just about set all the way through. In either case, when the eggs are almost done cooking, roll them up into a cigar-like shape. Remove the eggs from the pan and slice them in the same direction that you rolled them up, forming thin (1/4 to 1/2 inch) spirals. Set aside.
6) Make the stir fry: Start this step when the tofu is done baking. If you used a cast iron skillet to make the eggs, you might want to swap it out for a stainless steel pan at this point. If you used a non-stick pan, just keep using it. In either case, turn the heat up to medium-high. Add 1 Tbs of olive oil (or vegetable oil) to the pan and toss in the onions with a large pinch of salt. Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two. We’re just trying to take the edge off of the onions. After a minute, add the carrots and the garlic and another large pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Now stir in the baked tofu.
Drain the water from the noodles and put them on top of the onions, carrots and garlic mixture. Pour the sauce on top of the noodles and then put a lid on the pan. Steam the noodles until they have achieved the desired tenderness. This is really up to you and may take a little experimenting to get right. I usually steam the noodles for about 3 minutes. Once the noodles are soft, remove the lid and stir everything in the pan to combine. Now add the eggs and stir again to combine.
Here, I’ve cooked the onions and just added the carrots and garlic.
I’ve added the noodles and sauce on top of the onions, carrots, garlic and baked tofu.
7) Plate and present: Divide the stir fry into 3 or 4 portions and top with cilantro and chopped peanuts. Enjoy!
Again, vegetarian Pad Thai. It’s good, it’s quick and it’s easy. And this is coming from a meat eater.
To summarize the ingredients (you can also download the recipe):
- 1 lb. firm/extra firm tofu, cut into 32 thin triangles
- 8 oz. (250 grams) rice noodles, soaked in warm water
- 1/4 cup of lime juice (or the juice from two limes)
- 2 Tbs. demerara sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 Tbs. sriracha sauce
- 3 Tbs. soy sauce.
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 1 large onion, cut in half and sliced thin
- 1/2 cup minced cilantro (coriander)
- 1/2 cup minced dry roasted peanuts
- 3 eggs, cooked in single sheet, rolled up and finally cut into thin spirals.