As the holidays approach, most of us are caught in the rut of what we think we should eat on certain holidays. This is particularly challenging when we have vegetarians, vegans and the gluten or dairy-free on our guest lists. Just because it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas; or even a Bar-Mitzvah, we don’t have to serve what’s expected. The photo of the vegan pad-thai dish was served for the Bar-Mitzvah of a close friend and it was relished by the most finicky eaters of all ages and dietary preferences.
This dish even works for meat-eaters because Pad-Thai is filling and we usually serve a meat dish on the side for those who want to partake in animal protein. If you want to make a stir-fried beef or fish dish or just want to serve it alongside a rotisserie chicken or turkey — this pad thai always hits a home run for any event.
Vegan Pad Thai
Note that Pad Thai is traditionally made with rice noodles, egg, tofu, dried shrimp, and a salty-sweet-sour sauce of palm sugar, tamarind, and fish sauce or soy sauce.
My version uses the rice noodles, tofu, tamarind and coconut milk and Tamari, but skips dried shrimp and fish sauce (but can include egg if your guests eat eggs).
1 pound extra-firm tofu, sliced 1/2″ thick
1 tablespoon peanut butter (or sunbutter for nut allergies)
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free version)
1–2 tablespoons Sriracha (or other hot sauce/paste)
2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
One package of rice noodles
2 teaspoons oil, divided
1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 Thai chili, finely chopped (for extra spice)
1/2 cup peanuts, (or toasted pumpkin seeds) chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Spicy Pad Thai Sauce:
3 tablespoons of Tamari
3 tablespoons of Tamarind paste
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
3 tablespoons of coconut milk
3 tablespoons reserved pasta water
1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Mise en Place (your set up)
The first step is to gather and prep all the ingredients. Chop the carrots, green onions, cilantro, sweet red pepper and peanuts (or toasted-shelled pumpkin-seed-subsitution) and extra firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
Next, prepare the noodles by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and add a good tablespoon of salt. Add the noodles and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until cooked al dente. When you drain the water, reserve a cup of this water to use later to bind your sauce. You will finish cooking the noodles with this water and the added ingredients later.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pan, and fry the tofu on all sides until golden brown. Then add the carrots, green onions, peppers and some of the cilantro to the pan with the tofu.
Next, add the noodles and the sauce and stir well as it warms up. Ladle in a bit of the pasta water to bind the sauce to the noodles and taste. Add more Tamari or spice if you want more salt or heat.
Plate in a large, special platter when ready to serve. Top with crushed peanuts (or substitute), more cilantro, bean sprouts and remainder of chopped cilantro. Enjoy!