Pad Thai is one of my all-time favorite foods. With regard to many ethnic recipes, it is sometimes difficult to get certain ingredients kosher and takes a lot of time (and sometimes money) to source all of the ingredients needed. When I lived in South Africa, there was no finding MANY ingredients, so I quickly came up with my own recipe for Pad Thai that required no funky ingredients (namely, the Tamarind Paste and Fish Sauce which usually go hand and hand with Pad Thai).
Since moving back to the states over two years ago, I have experimented with using real fish sauce and real tamarind paste (both store bought and homemade). Both the store bought fish sauce, and the store bought tamarind paste, did not add to the recipe in any positive way. The homemade tamarind paste definitely ads something wonderful, but it is a little shlep to get the fresh tamarind and make it into a paste -- and I found that this recipe just the way it was worked out best. Better yet, it's something most people can make with ingredients they already have on hand. I buy my rice noodles en masse (the last time I bought them the lady in front of me at the store actually commented on the quantity... but, you never know when you may need Pad Thai) so all I need to buy fresh is the protein (sometimes chicken, but usually tofu for this dish), the fresh veggies, and cilantro. This is a dish my husband had never heard of until he met me (go figure, there is no kosher Thai in Johannesburg...) but it has become a dish that we make together at the very least twice a month. It seems like there are a lot of steps, but once you make it, you will see it's actually very easy, quick, and absolutely delicious. It also makes very tasty leftovers!
TOFU PAD THAI
14 oz firm tofu, cubed and dried
14 oz rice stick noodles
4 large carrots (peeled into ribbons)
6 green onions, finely cut
1/2 C peanuts, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 C bean sprouts
3 Tbsp oil, for frying
For the sauce:
1/3 C + 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 C water
1/4 C natural peanut butter
juice of 1 lime (or 2 Tbsp lime juice)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp salt
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce (or any asian sauce you have on hand)
1/4 C rice vinegar
2 tsp red chili flakes (or more if you like it hot!)
Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer on a low to medium heat until blended.
Prepare rice noodles according to package (some will recommend that you first soak the noodles before boiling, some will not). Cook, drain, rinse and set aside.
Heat a pan with oil on medium-high heat, and add tofu, frying until golden. (Tip: allow the oil to get hot enough, and be sure to dry the tofu well to get a good, golden crisp fry).
Drain crisped tofu on a plate layered with a paper towel and set aside.
Prepare the carrot ribbons by first peeling the outside of the carrot, discarding, and then "peeling" ribbons one by one rotating the carrot until you can no longer get a nice ribbon. Slice up the ribbons to shorten them, and set aside.
Wash and finely slice the green onions. Set aside.
Scramble the eggs, fry in a pan, and set aside.
Run a little cold water over the rice noodles to prevent sticking, and combine everything into the noodle pot: prepared tofu, carrot, green onion, eggs, bean sprouts, cilantro and 1/4 C crushed peanuts. Top with the sauce, and mix until thoroughly combined.
To serve: top with remaining crushed peanuts, and garnish with extra fresh cilantro and lime juice.