Story time guys!
When I was young and innocent (read: 18 years old) I ran off to Washington in pursuit of love and an education. I lived outside of Seattle for over a year and had a lot of new and exciting experiences. Riding a city bus for the first time (which became a daily routine), getting my first real job (Thanks Nintendo!), and catching a shark (it was a small shark.)
Some of my best memories from Washington came from tasting new dishes-I ate oysters straight off the beach, had a first date at a pho place when I didn’t even know what the pho-ck it was, tried my first yellow curry, ate soto ayam that I helped prepare with an old Indonesian man and hated it. One of my favorite memories is sitting on a hillside near the Pacific Science Center and eating pad thai during my first music festival. I’d heard of pad thai, of course, and there was a tent serving it there-It was amazing. I ate my own plate and someone’s leftovers. The combination of sweet and sour and cilantro and bean sprouts is something I crave.
After numerous cravings and too much money spent at Thai restaurants, I started making my own. I used a recipe off the back of a package of banh pho for the longest time, until I lost the package. Now when I want to make it I usually watch this video:
If you are like me and can only watch the video for a couple of seconds, there’s a link to their blog underneath.
Here’s my interpretation of pad thai:
- 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate (most important ingredient!)
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1 1/2 tbsp of sambal oelek (you can use sriracha or chili garlic sauce)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar/sugar in the raw
- 1 tsp of ginger powder OR 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp ketchup (totally optional)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1-2 tbsp lime juice
- dash of chili powder and white pepper
- 1 package rice noodles, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
- 1 16 oz package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
- 1 julienned carrot
- 2 head broccoli, chopped, stems removed
- 2-3 green onions, chopped into 1 1/2 inch lengths, white and green parts separated
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tsp seasame oil
- 3 tbsp canola/vegetable oil
- bean sprouts
- crushed peanuts
- chili powder
1. Soak your noodles in hot water (do not cook!!) and drain your tofu. Cover the tofu with a clean dish towel and set something heavy on top. I use a full teapot.
2. Prepare your vegetables-cut the carrots, de-stem the broccoli, cut the onions, chop the garlic, chop the ginger. Using a large saute pan, steam your broccoli and carrots. Just toss in a few tablespoons of water and cook until colors are bright, about 3-5 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and reserve. Clean the pan.
3. After tofu is drained, slice into 1/4 inch pieces. I make mine about the size of a small matchbox. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp canola oil over medium high heat in same pan and saute tofu. Prepare sauce while tofu is cooking, but make sure to flip it several times so it doesn’t burn.
4. Stir 1 tbsp concentrate into 1/4 cup boiling water. Add sugar, sambal oelek, rice vinegar, ginger, lime juice, and seasonings as needed. I add the ketchup to give the sauce a more orange color, but for a more authentic dish, do not add it.
5. When tofu is done cooking, set aside. Reheat pan to medium-high heat, add 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp canola oil. Toss in garlic and white pieces of green onion, cook until fragrant, and add other vegetables.
8. Garnish your pad thai with crushed peanuts, a handful of bean sprouts, and a few leaves of cilantro. Enjoy!
A few last notes: I used zucchini instead of broccoli here, but the process is still the same. Just don’t steam the zucchini. I also used fresh rice noodles that I sliced to 1/4 inch strips. If you get fresh noodles, there’s no need to soak them. Your noodles will probably be thinner and soak up sauce a little faster, so reduce cooking times if needed. I like to crush my peanuts in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Do whatever works for you. This is fast cooking dish, so try to have everything ready before you begin, it will make the process a lot easier. You can also add egg, substitute chicken or shrimp for the tofu, and add a little fish sauce to the sauce mixture. Try different combinations!