Monday, November 1, 2010

Pad Thai / Phat Thai ( Vegetarian )

This is the most delicious and flavorsome recipe for a vegetarian Pad Thai. Pad Thai is a national dish from Thailand and is made from stir fried rice noodles, tofu, tamarind, fish sauce, crushed peanuts, lime juice, red chili pepper and also either shrimps or chicken and or eggs.

I love Pad Thai but hate the fishy smell that the fish sauce lends to the dish. So once I naively asked my server to omit the fish sauce and the resulting dish tasted totally different and was much sweeter than any Pad Thai I have ever had. So I resigned myself to not ordering this dish and just sighing loudly whenever I saw it on the menu.

That is until I came across Chez Pim 's blog, she posted Pad Thai for beginners. And when I read that article I realized that I could easily adapt this to my taste sans the fish sauce and still maintain the flavor balance of the dish. So thanks to Chez Pim, I can now enjoy a hot steaming plate of Pad Thai whenever I want.

I omitted the fish sauce and substituted it with some soy sauce, some extra lime juice, a tad bit of salt ( as the fish sauce contributes to the saltiness of the dish ) and a little bit of chili peppers. Once you assemble all the components of the dish, you can make this dish in under 5 minutes. The Pad Thai sauce is the main component of this dish, once you get its taste right you can be assured of a properly balanced and flavorful Pad Thai.

Even though I have given measurements for the sauce, use it as a guideline as we all have different taste-buds and you should check the taste of your sauce and adjust it accordingly. Pim describes the sauce to lead with a salty flavor, followed with a mild sourness, then just a little sweetness and lastly a mild burn from the chili at the back of your throat. She also mentions that even though you can make Pad Thai to feed a crowd, you should cook no more that one to two portions at a time in the wok, just like they do on the streets of Bangkok. If you need to make more than two portions, cook them one at a time, wiping the wok clean between each session. I mentioned wok a lot, but you can cook it in a large saucepan as well. For those in India you can use a kadai too.

I omitted the eggs, you can add it if you want. Just push the lightly browned tofu, noodles and sauce to one side of the pan and crack the egg directly into the wok, let it set for 15-20 seconds and then mix everything together. Also the pickled radish is optional. It adds an interesting texture to the dish. This dish does not disappoint. its many flavors meld together to create the perfect Pad Thai.

Pad Thai/Phat Thai

Serves 1


Pad Thai Sauce

1/4 cup tamarind pulp ( see below for how to make tamarind pulp )
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 whole lime, juice
1/3 cup palm sugar ( can substitute with a leveled 1/4 cup white sugar / brown sugar )
1 heaped tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp salt

Rest of the ingredients

A fistful of dried rice noodles / stick ( about 1/2 - 1 cup ) soaked in hot water
1 cup firm tofu, cut into 1 inch rectangles ( you can use up to 1/2 cup too, I love a lot of tofu )
1 cup mung bean sprouts
2 tbsp crushed peanuts + 1 tbsp peanuts for garnish ( grind them coarsely )
1 tbsp pickled radish, finely chopped ( optional )
4-5 green onions/ Spring onions ( we need just the green part )
1 clove of garlic, finely mined
2 tbsp any cooking oil ( I used peanut oil )


sliver of lime
extra ground peanuts

  • Mix all the ingredients for the pad thai sauce in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, taste, adjust flavors accordingly, set aside.
  • Boil some water, remove pot from the stove and soak the rice noodles in the hot water for about 10 minutes. We are trying to soften the noodle but not fully cook them. They should be al dente. If your noodles soak for too long it will be soft and turn to mush when you cook it.
  • Keep the rest of the ingredients nearby - the garlic, tofu, green onions, pickled radish, beans sprouts and crushed peanuts.
  • Now perform the following steps quickly and keep all the above mentioned items nearby.
  • Heat your wok / kadai and add the oil to it. When hot add the minced garlic and fry it for 5 seconds. Add the cut tofu and fry it for a few minutes till it is lightly browned.
  • Add the rice noodles, 1/4 cup pad thai sauce and stir all the ingredients together in the wok, another 10-15 seconds. Check to see if the noodle is cooked before proceeding.
  • Add pickled radish and stir it once more.
  • Next add the crushed peanuts, green onions and bean sprouts. If it looks too dry add a little more sauce. Give it all a final stir and remove from the stove and pour all the contents on a ready waiting plate.
  • Garnish with some crushed peanuts , extra chili powder ( for the chiliheads ! ) and a wedge of lime. Enjoy your Pad Thai curled up on the sofa with the remote next to you watching your favorite program.

Tamarind Pulp : I usually buy a block of tamarind from the Indian grocery shop. For this recipe I took a big lemon sized ball and soak it in 1 1/2 cups of very hot water. Let this sit for about 30 minutes, till the water has soften the tamarind. After 30 minutes, using clean hands work the tamarind and water together till all the tamarind pulp is loosened and mixed with the water. Using a sieve separate the tamarind water from the seeds and membranes. Use as much as the recipe require and store the rest in a glass container in the fridge.

( You might also have some leftover pad thai sauce, store that too in the fridge, I have kept it for a week. I do not know if it can stay longer ).

Some things you will need.

Mung Bean Sprouts.

Rice Noodles.

Extra firm tofu.

Pickled Radish.


Some of the ingredients ( clockwise from the top ) tofu, green onions, pickled radish
crushed peanuts, and mung bean sprouts.

The rice noodles soaking in hot water.

The pad thai sauce, prepared and ready.


Saute the garlic and the tofu in a hot wok.

Next add the drained rice noodles.

Add the sauce and toss it all together.

Mix it all up and ensure that the noodles are fully cooked.

Add the pickled radish and stir it in.

Lastly add the crushed peanuts, green onions and mung bean sprouts. Toss it one last time.

Plate it and garnish with some crushed peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Serve it hot and enjoy.

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