One of the most common questions I get asked is what I cook when I’m not cooking.
Between recipe testing, styling, and shooting, work leaves me with plenty of leftovers, but there are a few easy, quick recipes I always rely on and have “most” of the ingredients on hand. (Meaning, I keep the dry ingredients as pantry staples so I only have to stop by the store for a handful of fresh things.) I’m going to start sharing these easy weeknight recipes with you beginning with Pad Thai.
I know, I didn’t invent it. I mean, if you’ve had Thai food at all, then it’s probably been Pad Thai, and maybe you’ve even tried making it yourself. The thing is this: pad thai is super simple but a few wrong moves could make it go from awesome to underwhelming. So, I wanted to share my recipe with you that’s easy to make with ingredients that should be relatively easy to find, and yet still gives a respectful nod to the classic street food. Sure, I throw in a few more veggies than is traditional but that’s because I’m always trying to up the vegetable consumption in my life. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to fold in wilted greens, thinly sliced carrots, cabbage, and broccoli rabe.
The morale is this: personalize away and make this dish whatever you want it to be. BUT, do follow two rules: 1) Don’t futz with the sauce and put something nasty like ketchup in it. (If you can’t find tamarind, use lime juice instead and adjust the flavoring to your liking.) 2) Definitely make it in batches. Pim over at Chez Pim first turned me on to this and I’m am a total convert. It is the only way you can really cook everything properly and it only takes a few more minutes to pull off.
Shrimp and Tofu Pad Thai Recipe
I created this recipe for Rachel over at My Chic Life who asked me to share one of my favorite weeknight recipes with her and her readers. Stop by her site for step-by-step photos of how we cooked this recipe as well as some of her fabulous home decor and entertaining ideas.
- Makes: 4 to 6 servings (scant 2/3 cup sauce)
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
- For the sauce:
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
- 2 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste or concentrate*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder or paprika
- For the Pad Thai:
- 6 ounces rice noodles (aka banh pho) (can use fettuccini in a pinch)
- 3 tablespoons canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil, plus more for noodles
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced paper thin
- 12 ounces peeled and deveined raw shrimp
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 6 ounces extra firm tofu, baked or pan fried and cut into paper thin strips
- 2 cup bean sprouts
- 3/4 ounce (1 small bunch) chives, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
- For serving (all optional):
- A handful of fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
- Chile-garlic sauce, such as Sriracha
- For the sauce:
Combine everything in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved then increase heat to medium. When it simmers, taste and add more tamarind if you want it more sour, add more fish sauce for more funk, or more sugar for more sweetness. Once it is where you like it, remove from heat and set aside.
(Sauce can be made up to 1 week ahead. Store refrigerated until ready to use. This amount of sauce is good for 4 to 6 ounces of noodles.)
- For the Pad Thai:
Bring some water to a boil, remove from heat, then soak the noodles in the hot water for about 8 to 10 minutes until they are pliable and al dente but not totally soft. (You don’t want to over soak them here or they’ll become mushy when you stir fry them.) Drain, rinse with cold water, then toss with a teeny drizzle of the oil (so they don’t stick and are easier to cook later) and set aside.
Before you begin, have all your ingredients prepared because things move quickly once you start cooking. You’ll want to make this in two batches to get the best results, so have all the ingredients divided in half. With half of the ingredients, do the following:
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot (the garlic will immediately sizzle when added), add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper and cook, stirring a few times, until garlic is golden brown.
Add the shrimp and cook, stirring a few times until just beginning to turn pink. Push shrimp and vegetables to one side and pour in the eggs. Let cook until just beginning to set then stir into shrimp mixture.
Immediately reduce heat to medium-low, then add the tofu, noodles and sauce and stir and toss to coat everything in the sauce.
Stir in the bean sprouts and chives, and cook for a few seconds, until chives just begin to wilt. Immediately divide among two or three bowls serve, topped, as desired, with cilantro, a sprinkle of peanuts. Serve a wedge of lime on the side.
Wipe out pan, return to stove and repeat with remaining ingredients.
Note: You can find tamarind concentrate, paste, or pulp in many markets these days. If using tamarind concentrate, just add it to the ingredients called for in the sauce. If using tamarind pulp, soak it in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then squeeze the pulp to extract the juice. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids and using the juice. If you can’t find any form of tamarind, use 3 tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lime juice instead though it will result in a less complex sauce.