You might be tempted to just order thai food from your local joint, but you can make a fresh and fragrant version of pad thai at home with the help of a little unexpected ingredient. Dates are a staple in my pantry; I use them for lots of raw desserts and in morning green smoothies, but when blended with savoury flavours like miso, sesame, and lime, it tastes very similar to tamarind paste, which is the traditional base of pad thai sauce... not ketchup, as some restaurants would have you believe! Try this vegan pad thai and you’ll be convinced that healthy home style cooking is far better than soggy takeout.
** makes 4 generous servings
pad thai sauce ingredients:
10 medjool dates, pitted
1 cup fresh filtered water
2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 lime, juiced (about 2 to 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp miso paste
2 tsp sriracha (more to taste for spicier)
1 red thai chili (optional)
pad thai ingredients:
250 g flat rice noodles or brown rice fettuccine noodles
1 brick (approx. 350 g) medium-firm or firm tofu
2 tbsp coconut oil (for frying)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 tbsp minced garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
3 cups broccoli florets
3 cups bean sprouts
3 tbsp finely chopped green onion
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 tbsp finely chopped roasted cashews (or peanuts)
Place dates in a bowl of warm water to soak for 10 minutes or until softened.
Drain the water from the tofu and let it sit in paper towel for 10-15 minutes to get rid of excess moisture. Then cut into cubes.
Drain and rinse dates from soaking water squeezing any excess moisture from them. Then place them in a high-powered blender with the 1 cup of fresh water and the rest of the sauce ingredients. Blend until very smooth and set aside.
If you want to replace the dates with tamarind paste, if you can find it, then start with 1 to 2 tbsp and add more to taste. You'll probably need to reduce the amount of lime juice in the sauce as well since tamarind has more of a sour note.
FOR THE SPICE LEVEL: if you want to use fresh red thai chili you can blend 1 pepper with the sauce either to replace sriracha or in addition to. It all depends on how spicy you like your noodles! 1 pepper is a mild spice so add another half or whole pepper to your taste or adjust using sriracha once the entire dish is cooked and ready to be served. Just toss more sriracha into the noodles.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the noodles. Once the water is at a rolling boil, toss in the noodles and stir occasionally while they cook for approximately 10 minutes or until al dente! Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile heat a large pan to medium heat and add 1 tbsp of coconut oil and cubes of tofu. After 4-5 minutes flip the cubes to another side to crisp. Flip the cubes every 2 minutes to get the rest of the sides golden brown.
When the tofu cubes are golden brown all around add ¼ cup of the sauce to the pan and coat the pieces evenly cooking over the heat for another minute or 2 until it looks more caramelized and dark. Remove tofu from the pan and set aside. You’ll toss tofu into the vegetables and noodles near end of cooking time.
In the same pan over medium heat add another 1 tbsp of oil and the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 3 minutes stirring frequently until softened. Then add in minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Then add in broccoli and sprouts (reserve a small amount of raw sprouts aside as a garnish on top of the finished pad thai), and cook for another 4-5 minutes stirring frequently. Then add in half the amount of sauce remaining, toss to coat all the veggies and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add in the cooked noodles and remaining sauce, turn the heat down to low, toss to coat everything in sauce, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. At this stage you can adjust the spice level if you desire by adding another 1-2 tsp of sriracha. Serve immediately and top with green onion, cilantro, raw sprouts, and chopped cashews (or peanuts)