This is the story of a girl who craved pad thai, but didn’t want to leave the house.
Good thing her pantry was full. She was missing a few ingredients, however. No flat rice noodles for her — only vermicelli could be found. And shrimp? Well, the dried variety would have to do. Bean sprouts were completely out of the question. But with her garden’s bounty, and a few substitutions, she found she could make do.
Did she regret staying in? Not for a second.
Mock pad thai
Oh, I’m silly today. This isn’t bad, but you should taste the sauce and adjust as you go to get something you’ll really like. I based this on Chez Pim’s wonderful Pad Thai for Beginners, which inspired me to buy palm sugar in the first place. You might check out her guide if you want something a little closer to the real thing.
- 2 servings rice vermicelli, soaked in warm water until just tender
- Assorted vegetables, cut up. I used snow peas, garlic scapes, and baby bok choy, plus a few squash blossoms from the garden. Trust me, if you have squash blossoms, save them for something they’ll stand out in. They’re too gorgeous to waste.
- 1/3 c. peanuts, finely ground
- 3 chopped scallions or spring onions (they were from my garden)
- 1-2 T. chopped cilantro
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 block extra firm tofu, frozen and thawed, or at least squeezed to remove excess moisture
- peanut oil, for cooking
- 1/8 c. dried shrimp, ground (optional)
- ~1/3 c. fish sauce, or nam pla
- ~3 T. tamarind paste/concentrate. You can use the pulp, but I think you have to soak it in water and push it through a mesh sieve.
- ~1/3 c. palm sugar
Heat the fish sauce, tamarind paste, and palm sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves; taste and adjust proportions as necessary. The fish sauce is the salty bit, the palm sugar is (obviously) sweet, and the tamarind is tart, so you may prefer to feature one flavor in your dish. I chose to focus on the tamarind; I like the tartness.
Heat wok over high flame until it starts smoking. Add 2-3 T. peanut oil, and then throw in the garlic, tossing quickly. Add the egg, stir until curds form, remove from the pan, and set aside. Next, replenish the oil in the pan, let the heat build, and then add the tofu and a large spoonful of the sauce mixture. Toss in the hot oil until cooked (1-2 minutes). Remove from the wok and set aside.
Add more oil, let it heat up for a minute, and then throw in the vegetables and another big spoonful of the sauce. Cook for a minute or two, until the vegetables are crunchy but tender. If you choose tougher vegetables than mine, you may need to add those first and cook them longer, or precook them. Once they’re done, remove them from the wok and set aside.
Add more oil to the wok and let heat once again. Add the noodles and two large spoonfuls of the sauce. Toss for a minute, then add in the other ingredients you just cooked, as well as the peanuts, scallions, dried shrimp, and cilantro. Toss together and serve immediately.