Lately I’ve been really enjoying shopping at the local Asian convenience store down the street. I sort of spend more time than one normally spends at grocery stores (even someone like me, who enjoys spending time at markets) perusing the aisles of bean pastes, chili oils, rice wrappers and seaweed. I’m sort of in awe at all the possible ingredients and flavors that can go into a particular dish. One ingredient I’ve always enjoyed in dishes when I’m eating out — but which hasn’t quite made its way into my pantry (until tonight, that is) — is tamarind. I would be happy with a spoon and a bowl of that brown, tamarind dipping sauce that comes with the pappadum at Indian restaurants. So I decided to bring some home with me the other day. This Pad Thai happened as a result.
To veganize: I used tofu to sort of mimic the texture of egg. No fish sauce? No problem. I didn’t find myself missing it at all. Also, I tend to like a lot of spice — so much so that I fear my taste buds might be impervious to heat these days. Alright, not really. I did almost rip my tongue out of my mouth a few weeks ago when I bit into a hot pepper, not knowing a large piece had fallen into my salad. But generally speaking, I like my meals (especially those of the Asian variety) to have some heat. If you don’t fall under that category, I would say omit the chili peppers before omitting the garlic chili paste, since the paste adds flavor and color as well as heat.
Serves: about 4
Vegan Pad Thai:
3 tbsp tamarind concentrate (found in Asian aisle or Asian grocery stores)
1/4 cup wheat-free tamari sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Thai chili peppers, sliced (optional)
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
~ 8 oz. flat rice noodles, reconstituted in hot water (according to package directions), drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Lan Chi garlic chili paste
salt to taste
fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedges for serving
1. In a small bowl, whisk together tamarind, tamari, lime juice, sesame oil, scallions, ginger, agave, garlic, chilis, coriander and mustard. Set aside.
2. Crumble tofu into a large skillet or wok. Add olive oil, heat skillet to high and toss. Let tofu cook until browned and not watery, about ten minutes, stirring pretty consistently. Reduce heat to low. Add perpared sauce and rice noodles. Toss until noodles are coated. If the noodles seem a bit dry, you can add a bit of water (maybe a few tablespoons) to loosen them up. Add chili garlic paste and bean sprouts. Stir until chili garlic paste has coated all the noodles. Taste to adjust salt.
3. To serve, top noodles with crushed or chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves. Squeeze with lime wedges before eating.