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Pad Thai

September 18, 2011

The Asian food lover in me comes out pretty frequently. Usually its calmed by a delicious array of sushi (not mad about that at all..) and when its not, pad thai is my go to dish.  I have always loved a good pad thai in the restaurant setting (and there are some pretty good ones in Nashville), but ever since finding this recipe and mastering the making of it in my own kitchen, it really is hard to beat. 

The process involves lots of tiny steps and the dirtying of many many bowls & plates, but each step is worthwhile and comes together to make one of the most delicious pad thais I have ever had. I highly suggest you get all of your ingredients out, prepped and ready to go ahead of time because once you start cooking this dish moves incredibly fast.

This particular pad thai is vegetarian, but you could easily slip in some chicken or shrimp in addition to, or in place of, the tofu. I can handle eating tofu in very few applications, but in this dish it does wonders. (I mean, its fried. You really cant complain about that..)

The recipe looks cumbersome, but trust me when I say that once you’ve given it a shot, you won’t ever regret it!

VEGETARIAN PAD THAI
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine) 
serves 4-6 

12 ounces dried banh pho rice noodles (1/4 inch wide)
3 Tbs tamarind paste (usually found in a large block at the international grocery)
1 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbs Sriracha (Asian chili sauce)
1 bunch scallions
4 large shallots
1 (14-16 ounce) package firm tofu
1 cup peanut or vegetable oil 
6 eggs
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3-4 limes, quartered
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped 

 THE PREP
-place tamarind and water in a medium bowl. warm in the microwave  for 3 minutes, then stir to combine. force this mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove all seeds and fibers. add soy sauce, brown sugar & Sriracha, stirring until combined and sugar is dissolved. 

– cut scallions in half length wise, then cut into 2 inch pieces

– cut shallots crosswise into thin slivers. Mandolin is easiest here but not necessary – you should be making rings but also not a requirement so long as they are equal sized pieces. 

– Rinse tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes. Set on a paper towel, place additional paper towel on top and finish with a plate or small cutting board on top to apply some pressure.

– Crack eggs into a small bowl, whisk lightly with 1/4 tsp of salt. 

– soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water for about 30 minutes (which is usually about how much time from when you start prepping till its time to use them)

– Prepare two plates, each topped with several paper towels for use later

THE EXECUTION
Heat oil in wok or large saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add half of the shallots to the oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Carefully strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl. Spread fried shallots over paper towel covered plate to crisp up.

Return shallot oil to the wok and heat to high. Fry half of the tofu, enough so they are all touching the bottom of the pan and not over crowding eachother. Turn gently, cooking until each side is golden brown, approx 5-8 minutes. Set on 2nd paper towel covered plate to drain. Repeat with remaining tofu. 

Pour off (and reserve) all but 2 Tbs of the frying oil. Add the eggs and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Stir gently with a spatula until cooked through. Break into chunks and transfer to a plate.

Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Add reserved frying oil, swirling to coat the pan. Add scallions, garlic and remaining shallots and stirfry until softened (if adding shrimp or chicken I would add at this point)

Add noodles and stir-fry over medium heat (2 spatulas or spoons are helpful here) for 3-5 minutes. Add tofu, sprouts, 1 cup of sauce and simmer, stirring until the noodles are tender and sauce is absorbed. 

Stir in additional sauce if desired, add eggs and transfer to a large serving dish.

Sprinkle with peanuts, fried shallots and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and leftover sauce for those who want to kick it up a notch.

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