What’s for dinner?
Otherwise known as the question I ask myself every day in my head as I walk home from work. Something tells me I’m not alone on that one.
This is also a question I’m often asked by people who find out that I have a food blog. Unfortunately I think my answer is a bit underwhelming. Despite spending my weekends turning my kitchen upside down, dirtying all the pots and pans, testing all sorts of recipes and ingredient combinations, weeknights are pretty tame.
I’m the type that can eat the same thing for days without growing tired of it. Anyone else? If you were to peek into my kitchen every night of the week for a month, you’d probably notice that about 80% of the weeknight dinners I enjoy are of the Asian stir fry variety.
At some point during my time living in the Middle East, I discovered Thai food and decided right then and there that it was hands-down my favourite cuisine. Yes, there will always be a special place in my heart for the from-scratch Sri Lankan curries our housemaid used to cook for our family. And yes, I’m always up for a big plate of sushi, especially here in Vancouver where sushi restaurants are about as easy to find as McDonalds. But there’s just something about the fresh, vibrant, tastebud-awakening flavours of Thai food that gets me all fired up every time.
I remember when I first looked up a pad thai recipe in attempt to re-create the well-known dish myself at home. I got really into being super authentic and looked to the recipes of Thai bloggers to find out how they really do it in Thailand.
As you’d expect, true pad thai calls for a few ingredients commonly found in southeast Asia, but not so commonly found in your every day supermarket – particularly tamarind paste which goes into the sauce. Depending on whose recipe you look at, you might also need to hunt down preserved radish, dried shrimp, and an assortment of Asian vegetables.
Authentic pad thai also typically contains fish sauce and eggs, and that’s not such great news for the vegans in the crowd. Luckily, there are a lot of easy tweaks you can make like swapping shrimp for tofu, fish sauce for low sodium gluten-free tamari, and tamarind paste for the sauce mixture that I concocted for this recipe. I also made zucchini noodles with my spiralizer instead of using rice noodles, but you can use whatever noodle your heart desires!
Because so many of the dinners I find myself making are Asian-inspired, I almost always have pureed ginger (or a knob of fresh ginger root), low sodium tamari, rice vinegar, and chili garlic paste in my pantry. Mix all those things together with some tomato paste and a little something sweet, and BAM – you’ve got a very pad thai-like sauce.
This Tofu and Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai is definitely not what you’d call traditional, and like so many other variations of pad Thai recipes floating around out there on the interwebs, I’m sure that any Thai person would probably shudder at the liberties I’ve taken with ingredient swaps. Buuuuuuut, it’s just as delicious as pad thai I’ve ordered in restaurants, and when you’re hungry, does anything else really matter?
Now you may be thinking, tofu? Can I just have chicken or shrimp? And the answer is 100% yes, but trust me, this tofu tastes awesome. Gloriously glistening with the sweet-spicy-and-salty-all-at-the-same-time sauce, I’m quite confident that even the meatiest of meat eaters will enjoy it.
This, my friends, is how you make tofu delicious.
Tofu and Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Ingredients (2 servings)
For the sauce:
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp gluten-free tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce or fish sauce, but if you use the latter it won’t be vegan)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp ginger paste (or very finely minced fresh ginger root)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp chili garlic paste
- 1 tsp brown sugar
For the rest:
- 225g cubed firm tofu
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, divided
- 2 small zucchini
- 3/4 cup chopped snap peas
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1 large carrot, julienne cut
- 1 tbsp shredded basil
- 1 tbsp torn cilantro
- 1 red chili, seeded and finely minced
- chopped peanuts, to garnish
Whisk or blend together all ingredients for the sauce.
Chop the tofu into cubes. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan and swirl it around. Add the tofu cubes and 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Stir fry them until golden on all sides, then transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Heat the remaining coconut oil in the same frying pan until melted. Add the zucchini, snap peas, bell pepper strips, carrots and the remaining sauce. Stir to coat, and continue stir frying on high heat until the zucchini begins to soften, about 4 minutes. (Note that if overcooked, the zucchini will release more water and become soggy.)
Add the tofu cubes back to the pan, along with the basil, torn cilantro and minced chili. Stir to incorporate. Remove the pan from the stove as soon as the tofu is hot again.
Divide the pad thai between two bowls. Garnish with crushed peanuts and additional torn cilantro if desired.
If you’re looking for more Thai recipes, you might also like…
- Thai Peanut Chicken Stir Fry
- Green Curry Shrimp Rolls
- Thai Coconut Shrimp Curry
- Thai Green Curry with Chicken
- Thai Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp
- Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Pho
- Thai Green Curry with Chickpeas
So tell me…
- Pad Thai: What’s your favourite way to make it? Any fun twists on the traditional dish?
- What are you eating for dinner these days?