Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Pad Thai? Or at least respect it? Cherish it? Write weird love letters to it that aren’t really all that weird because you just don’t understand what we have because love and Pad Thai and love?
What I’m getting at is that I think everyone harbors at least an ounce of affection for Pad Thai. And that I need to dot my I’s with hearts more often.
That being said, we’ve all been burned before. Earth shatteringly tasty as it can be, Pad Thai can also be dastardly. There is very little “okay” Pad Thai. There is “I need a minute alone” Pad Thai and “I need an hour in the bathroom but I’m scared to be alone” Pad Thai.
This is the earth shattering variety. And because noodles scare me and turn me into a she-beast with a perpetually perturbed sneer, it’s noodle-less. And it’s fantastic.
The key here enlies in figuring out a good alternative to fish sauce, a staple in all those things you like to eat from takeout containers. And because the sauce is the key to any pad thai, vegan/vegetarian or not, this is huge. Everywhere suggests tamarind paste but my Whole Foods was out and I play by my own rules and I’m really, really fucking lazy. After some strategic finagling of other recipes and my own taste buds, I think I came up with a really legit alternative. It’s all about the vinegar, dates, date sugar, and dulse flakes.
Though it’s a little carbier than my typical fare (“medjooooool daaaaaaaates!” She shouted menacingly.) and there is a very amount of sugar – (see previous shout of disdain), its worth it. It’s so worth it. You save a lot of carbs in the “noodles” anyways which are comprised of spiral cut zucchini and squash, perfect vehicles for all things Pad Thai. And the sugar is coming from noble places.
Note: The tofu marinade I used is based off a marinade for a barbecue (go with it) salmon (shh) recipe from my aunt. It gives this Pad Thai an extra kick and bit of uniqueness. Lose the five spice powder if you aren’t as into that sort of thing.
Make it. Love it. Inhale it. Write it letters.
makes 4 big servings
inspired by Epicurious’s Vegetarian Pad Thai
TOFU + MARINADE
- 12 ounces extra firm tofu (just tried Black Soybean Tofu Plus from Nasoya and it’s very, very good)
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (make sure it’s specifically gluten-free soy sauce if you want it gf)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon date sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1/4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon chinese five spice powder (optional, removing makes it less smoky)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
PAD THAI SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons date sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 2 medjool dates, pitted
- dulse flakes to taste
- 40g shallots, sliced thin
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger (I used considerably more because I am considerably more obsessed with ginger than the garden variety psycho)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- a bunch of broccolette or chinese broccoli
- 3 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
- one yellow squash, spiral cut to make fine noodles (about 220g worth)
- one zucchini, spiral cut to make fine noodles (about 140g worth)
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- peanuts, crushed
Don’t forget to dot your cross your t’s and dot your pad thai’s with sweet, sweet kisses
Prepare the marinade:
Dry your tofu as thoroughly as humanly possible. The drier you get it, the better it will bake. Combine your other ingredients in a bowl and whisk about. Feel free to adjust things here and there for your level of spiciness and enjoyment. Cut your tofu into 1″ cubes and toss with the marinade, fully coating it. Let your tofu sit in its marinade, in the fridge, overnight. You can also just do this for a few hours but you sound like some sort of commitment-phobe.
When you’re ready to bake your tofu, set your oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set your marinade tofu cubes on the sheet. Douse them with any remaining marinade. Bake for 30 minutes or until they’re golden brown.
Prepare your sauce:
Microwave your dates in a bowl with a tablespoon or so of water for about 30 seconds. Add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to a food processor and puree until it’s a smooth and delectable sauce. Dulse flake your little heart out.
Make it work:
Spray a wok with some cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook the shallots for a few minutes. Keep them moving so they don’t burn. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook another 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Throw your meager teaspoon of olive oil in there along with your broccolette/chinese broccoli and the white slices of your scallions. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the veggies are softened but still have a little crunch. Throw the “noodles” in the wok along with the pad thai sauce and cook until the sauce is throughly heated and everything’s all happy and hot. Add the bean sprouts and cook for another 30 seconds, keeping the bean sprouts crunchy. Remove from heat. Top with the green slices of scallions and peanuts. Eat. Eat so, so hard.