The Engineer loves pad Thai. I really like it, too, but we each have some pet peeves about it. He doesn’t like bean sprouts, which he sees as cheap filler. I don’t like when food is spicy, and I’m not big on seafood in general. So I adapted this recipe from the New York Times to try it at home. I omitted the sprouts, used seitan because the grocery store was out of tofu (no comment), and swapped the shrimp for chicken cooked separately. I made it less spicy, too, and served it with sriracha sauce on the side. I hesitated to post this because while I felt it was good, it wasn’t great; I think it’s missing something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Plus, as I was staring at the plate, I felt like I needed to start making pretty food again… The Engineer, however, said this dish was restaurant-worthy, so there you have it. The ingredients below are adapted, but feel free to adjust to your own taste.
14 oz. fettuccine-width rice noodles (mine were brown rice)
¼ cup peanut oil (I used safflower oil, and a little sesame oil)
2 to 4 Tbsp. tamarind paste (I used 2 Tbsp.)
¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla; I also used only 2 Tbsp. here)
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste (well, you know me and my Korean pepper by now)
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup mung bean sprouts (I omitted them)
½ lb. peeled shrimp, pressed tofu or a combination (I used cooked chicken and seitan)
½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered
Put noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until noodles are just tender; check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they do not get too soft. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside (I used sesame oil here, because I love the taste). Meanwhile, put tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
Put remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add scallions and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done.(I like to do this with chopsticks.) Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt, then add shrimp or tofu (or both).
When shrimp begin to turn pink and tofu begins to brown, add drained noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges.