Monday, September 23, 2013

Almost Vegan Pad Thai, Our Way

Pad thai is the menu item least ordered by Thai food aficionados. Although we don't include ourselves in that category of diners, Cafe Drake HRV can't remember the last time we dared sample the dreaded dish of syrupy-sweet, gooey noodles dripping with mouth-puckering sourness to boot. Yuk. Of course the real thing can be satisfying when created by a chef unwilling to make concessions to Western junk food palettes. No such chef exists in Brooklyn, for example.

The noodles have such a bad reputation and history of being truly awful that any experimentation is welcome. Hence, Cafe Drake HRV's interpretation below. We won't post the entire recipe from start to finish because it's doubtful anyone believes enough that these are really good to exert the effort involved. Our finished product was delightful however, really. The entire dish could be vegan by eliminating only the scrambled egg step; soft tofu makes a nice substitute and visual facsimile of the eggs, even more so if you mash it with a bit of heart-healthy turmeric powder before frying with the noodles.

It all begins with this tamarind sauce, used to season the noodles and veggies themselves in our version of Pad Thai. You're gonna want to make this ultra-useful kitchen staple in batches and keep in the fridge for stir-frying and simmering veggie, fish and poultry dishes alike. Cafe Drake HRV brushes the sauce, in quantity, over thick slices of tofu before broiling to chewy savoriness (close to the broiler flame, 4 minutes per side, check often for scorching and adjust rack lower as needed). Quick cooking pork cuts such as tenderloin or thinly sliced chops also welcome a bath of tamarind sauce and wear it well . . . expect a glossy lacquer finish after roasting. Let's begin. All you need to do is add the following to a blender and process until smooth: 2 T. tamarind extract, 2 T. maple syrup (or honey), 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 T. tamari (or soy sauce), 1-2 T. chopped hot chilies (your choice) and 1 T. olive oil. That's it. We recommend tripling the recipe!

Next step is our Pad Thai finishing sauce. Feel free to use peanut instead of almond butter but do make this and keep in fridge for up to one week. A large batch makes vegatable crudite spring to life. Tossed with noodles and refrigerated, it becomes your new favorite back-from-the-bar instant snack.Cafe Drake HRV spreads it thick on toasted pita wedges before broiling for 1 minute and topping with cucumber slices. Again, just put it all in a blender or food processor and push a button: 1/2 cup almond butter, 1 T. minced ginger, 2 T. each lime juice and maple syrup, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 1-3 whole dried red chilies, 1 T. sesame oil and just enough water to facilitate processing, 1/4 cup or less.

Thin rice noodles soaked for a few minutes in hot water were drained and rinsed well. We used kitchen shears to cut the noodles into manageable lengths and then mixed with our tamarind sauce.

Slivered carrots, onions, zucchini and ginger just before being stir-fried in a couple of tablespoons of grape seed oil. A couple of minutes later we added the noodles in tamarind sauce.

The tamarind noodles and veggies are cooked over the highest flame for mere minutes, along with 2 beaten eggs, chopped cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup each of cilantro and Thai basil.

Our almost vegan Pad Thai, atop romaine leaves, with soft tofu, a soy drizzle and almond sauce on the side.

We really really want you to make the almond sauce!

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