tofu pad thai

7:35:00 PM

Fun fact that is mildly embarrassing: the first time I ever made pad thai, ketchup was a main sauce ingredient. I was young and in college and poor, and I thought it was delicious. Now, I would have no excuse to do something that heinous. Google has me believing that some restaurants even put ketchup in their pad thai, which is terrifying. Don’t do this. Make this instead.

I loooove pad thai. I’m not certain, but it may be the first way I ever ate tofu, which is probably why I still love tofu so much.  I tend to always order tofu in any Asian-style noodle dish, despite being an omnivore, because I just like it. (Also good - mock duck/seitan. The best curry I ever had, from a place right down the street called Ha Long Bay, was a mock duck massaman curry. Phenomenal.) 

There are a lot of resources on the internet that argue about the right way to authentically make Pad Thai. Most of them require stir-frying the noodles in individual servings, adding sauce and ingredients as you go. But, I have a crappy electric flat-top stove, which makes it absolutely impossible to quickly control heat level. Pans just don’t get hot enough quickly enough to do this, and also, it feels like just too much work. 

Most people agree that the ingredients in the pad thai sauce are palm sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and maybe thai chilis. Most also include peanuts and lime and bean sprouts.

I don’t have palm sugar and it can be expensive, so brown sugar it is. But the other ingredients are all there. If you can’t find tamarind paste, it’s easy to find online, and it lasts forever in the fridge so you can make pad thai over and over again. There isn’t really a good substitute for it. 

You can certainly sub any other cooked protein for the tofu, like thinly sliced chicken thighs.

tofu pad thai

for sauce
6 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tamarind concentrate/paste
1 tsp thai chile paste
5 tbsp brown sugar, packed

for pad thai
8 oz wide rice noodles (such as bahn pho)
1 block super firm tofu (12-16 oz), cut into 8 slices width-wise
2 tbsp canola oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups bean sprouts
4 medium carrots, peeled and grated on a cheese grater or shredded in a food processor
2 eggs, whisked (optional)
salt and pepper

for serving
5 scallions, sliced 
lime wedges
2 oz (about ½ cup) dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (convection setting if you have it for crispier tofu.)

Start by pressing your tofu. Slice into about 8 equal pieces, then place on a layer of paper towels. Top with more paper towels and place a heavy skillet on top. Let drain for about 20 minutes, while you prep everything else.

Mix together the fish sauce, tamarind paste, thai chile paste and brown sugar; set aside.

When tofu is pressed, cut into cubes. Toss with a tablespoon of canola oil, salt and pepper to taste. Bake on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes, stirring once, or until tofu is crispy on the outside. 

Cook the pad thai noodles in salted water according to package directions. You can undercook them a little bit as you’ll saute them a little bit with the other ingredients later.

In a small nonstick skillet, make a thin omelet with the whisked eggs: season eggs with salt and pepper, then pour eggs into skillet and tilt the pan to create an even layer. Let set on the bottom, then flip over. Once set, slide onto a cutting board and slice into thin strips.

In a large skillet or wok, heat a tablespoon of canola oil and add the minced garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds. Add almost all the bean sprouts and almost all the carrots (save a little bit for garnish.) 

Add the sauce to the large skillet, and bring to a simmer. Finally, add the cooked noodles and toss (gently!) until all the noodles are incorporated with the vegetables and they are coated in the sauce. Add the cooked tofu and stir. 

Serve the pad thai with chopped peanuts, scallions, cilantro, the reserved bean sprouts and carrots, and lime wedges.

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