I love Pad Thai but find it hard to find a vegan version in Thai restaurants and so I decided to make it myself. Trying to find an authentic sauce took some trial and error. The taste that I found difficult to duplicate was the fishy flavor that the traditional fish sauce imparts to the Thai dishes. That is, until I discovered ume plum vinegar. Umeboshi vinegar (also called ume plum vinegar) is the by-product that comes from making umeboshi. Umeboshi are those pinkish, pickled fruits used in many Japanese dishes. The ume vinegar imparts a salty, sour and sweetish flavor to dishes and does a nice job of replacing the fish sauce. When making this dish, feel free to add or remove vegetables to suit your palate or to use up what you have on hand. Bok choy, red pepper or mushrooms would all be wonderful in this dish.
- 8 oz dried Pad Thai rice noodles, OR enough for 2 people (linguini-width)
- 1/2 cup soft tofu
- 4 green onions, white parts sliced and kept separate from green
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated galangal OR ginger
- 1 fresh red or green chili, sliced
- 2-3 cupsheads chopped broccoli
- 1/2 chopped carrots
- 1 cup of zucchini, thinly sliced in half moons
- 2 to 3 cups bean sprouts
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, OR substitute cashews
- 3/4 to 1 1/2 tablespoon. tamarind paste, to taste (available at Asian/East Indian food stores)
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or faux-chicken)
- 2 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or wheat-free soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Ume Plum Vinegar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili sauce (to taste), OR 1/3 to 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 3 tablespoon coconut palm sugar, or more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 to 4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable or faux chicken stock
- Lime wedges for serving
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and switch off heat. Soak noodles in the hot water for 4-6 minutes, or until limp but still too firm to eat. Drain and rinse with cold water. Tip: Noodles must be under-cooked at this stage in order to come out right (they will finish cooking later when they are stir-fried).
2 . Combine ‘pad Thai sauce’ ingredients in a cup, stirring well to dissolve the paste and sugar (note that if your tamarind paste is thick, only add 1 tablespoon, only adding more if it is too thick. Note that this sauce should have a very STRONG flavor that tastes sour-sweet first, followed by salty and spicy. Set aside when thoroughly mixed.
3. Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus the white parts of the green onion (reserve the rest for serving), garlic, galangal/ginger, and chili. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
4. Add the broccoli plus stock. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and slightly softened.
5. If pan is dry, push ingredients aside and add a little more oil to the middle. Add the drained noodles and 1/3 of the sauce. Add the zucchini. Stir-fry everything together 1-2 minutes using 2 utensils and a gently tossing motion (like tossing a salad). Keep heat between medium-high and high, reducing if noodles begin to stick or burn. Keep adding sauce and continue stir-frying in this way 3-6 more minutes, or until sauce is gone and noodles are soft but still chewy (‘al dente’) and a little sticky.
6. Add the tofu when you add the last of the pad Thai sauce.
7. Switch off heat and add the bean sprouts, folding them into the hot noodles. Taste-test, adding more soy sauce for more salt/flavor. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a good squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, sprinkle over a little more sugar.
To serve, scoop noodles onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with reserved green onion, cilantro, and ground nuts. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side. Serve immediately and enjoy!. (Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side for those who likes their noodles extra spicy).