I have a deep love for pad thai. Whenever we go to a restaurant that has it on the menu, I will always order it (if it’s gluten-free). I absolutely love it! So, what is it you might ask? It’s just a stir-fry noodle dish with different vegetables and meat. I’ve loved pad thai ever since I experienced my first one when we were living in Edmonton, Alberta. There was this little bitty family owned Thai restaurant that made me fall in love with this dish. They knew me by the order number because I’d always order a mild pad thai…a #12 if I remember correctly. Then a Vietnamese restaurant opened up right next to our neighborhood that came SO close to the other restaurant version. I never veered from their pad thai either.
I’ve tried NUMEROUS pad thai recipes in my quest to find the perfect pad thai at home, and I haven’t found one yet. There are MANY different versions on the internet. Some will call for fish sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, or some other ingredient that I can’t have. One night I was doing my weekly shopping list and actually had time to browse some sites for some new recipes. I found this Almond Ginger Pad Thai and I wanted to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? I’ve come across failures before.
I wanted tofu and shrimp in my pad thai. All the pad thai’s I’ve had in the past have all had those two components. I’ll tell you right off the bat that I left out the cilantro (surprise!) and almonds. I’m allergic to almonds. I just used the sauce recipe really. I used all the green onions in another dish I cooked earlier this week and I didn’t want to buy the other vegetables because I’m just lazy like that.
To cook your tofu without baking it, gently squeeze the water out of the tofu block. Then slice your tofu. I get 8 slices.
Then take a slice and put it on a dish/tea towel and gently press down to squeeze out more water. You’ll want to be firm enough to squeeze out the water but not too firm to where you’re going to crush it. I squeeze until I know there’s going to be an imprint of my towel on the tofu. Plus you’ll be able to feel if you’re squeezing too hard and starting to crush the tofu. Then gently pick it up, put it back on your chopping board, and cube it.
Next, get a pan and turn the stove on high. You want it hot enough to where the oil you’ll use will smoke. When you’re ready, turn it down a notch and put your tofu in. Make sure you keep the pan moving as soon as all of your tofu is in. You can’t let it sit still for too long or the tofu will stick. Keep cooking until your tofu turns the color brown that you want. I’ve never cooked my tofu in the oven before so I can’t give you a comparison between the two methods. My tofu isn’t super crispy, but it’s the consistency that I like.
After my tofu was done, I set it aside and started to cook my shrimp. If you want to veganize this recipe, you’ll skip the shrimp and then go on to your vegetables.
I then moved on to the sauce part. This is where I got nervous because I didn’t know how the sauce would turn out. Instead of the almond butter, I used regular smooth peanut butter. And because I’m a bit haughty (only a teeny tiny bit), I used 4 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter. I just didn’t feel like spooning it in a little 1/4 cup and then scraping it out again. For future reference for those you like me, 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons.
Then you add the tomato paste. I thought that was odd but I didn’t question it. Now, for the dates I used maple syrup. For some reason I couldn’t find dates ANYWHERE. If you’ve never had dates, they look weird but they’re oh so good. Slice them open and you’ll be exposed to a sweet center (not like the Tootsie Pops you used to get back in the day. Y’all remember those commercials?). With a little peanut butter it’s heaven.
So back to the dates. Since I couldn’t find any, I used 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. One tablespoon for one date. Then toss in your garlic cloves. I didn’t chop them because you’re putting them in the blender and they’re going to get blended. So why chop them and get your fingers smelling like garlic?
Instead of ginger (because I was too lazy), I just added a pinch of ginger powder. Whenever you’re substituting dried powder for something fresh you don’t want too much. Adding an equal amount of dried to fresh wouldn’t be the same. The dried would be WAY too overpowering. Plus, if you add too much ginger it can and will get spicy. Trust me.
Add everything else for the sauce (I omitted cilantro) and then blend.
Taste and make sure it’s too your liking. Then cook your rice noodles. I always let the little one pick which noodles he wants to use, and he picked vermicelli. You can use whatever you want really. To cook your rice noodles, get some boiling water and pour it on top of your noodles. Put a lid on your pot and let it sit for about 10 minutes until they’re done.
I then put the noodles in the same pan I used to cook the tofu and shrimp, and added everything else. I tried to mix everything as best as I could. I always have a hard time mixing noodles.
If you weren’t lazy like me and actually had vegetables, you’ll add them in here. Then once everything is mixed, serve your pad thai.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. It’s not the same as what you’d get in a restaurant but it’s the closest homemade recipe I’ve come across. I was a bit surprised that tamarind wasn’t used. I think tamarind would’ve added another level of flavor and would’ve brought it pretty close to restaurant quality. Next time, I think I’ll add some tamarind paste, not use heaping tablespoons of peanut butter (maybe 3 heaping tablespoons), and maybe use just one tablespoon of tomato paste or cut it out. I think it was used just for the color instead of flavor. So if you add tamarind paste you could probably cut out the tomato paste altogether.
If you want to veganize the recipe, simply omit the shrimp. If you want to meat-ify the dish then you can add whatever meat you want. I think traditionally chicken is added. You can also add some eggs if you wish too. If you’re allergic to nuts then you can substitute the almond butter for any seed butter like sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter. I should probably note that I used tamari to make my version gluten-free.
So all-in-all, I’m DEFINITELY going to be trying this again with the tweaks I mentioned above. I’ll still continue my hunt for restaurant-quality homemade pad thai though.