Wednesday, February 1, 2012

DIY Take-out: Pad Thai with Shrimp & Tofu

What is going on with me?  First I was baking brownies without butter, and now I'm craving tofu?  It's crazy talk.  But you know, the brownies turned out super awesome, and so did this Pad Thai.  So I'm onto something good, right?  Every so often it's cool to shake up the whole culinary routine.  Or just shake up life's little routines in general. Go for something that you normally wouldn't have picked out for yourself in the first place.  You don't have to dye your hair red or paint your walls blue (or dye your hair blue and paint your walls red), but do something a little bit different.  You may be surprised (in the best way!) by the end result.

I'll be honest - I don't grab a lot of take-out.  It's been eons since there's been a pizza box in my recycling and I think I was 20 years younger (and with bigger hair and even bigger glasses) last time anything McD touched these lips.  On days when I've been run off my feet and there's no way in hell I'm chopping anything else, I pop into my favourite neighbourhood Thai place for take-out.  Nothing like a pile of spicy noodles twisted around juicy shrimp to set everything right with the world, am I right?

I mostly wanted to make Pad Thai because I found tamarind paste at my new favourite little import grocery shop.  That's how I roll sometimes - take an ingredient and build a dish around it.  Fun! (My friend Jess over at La Domestique does this on a weekly basis - do check her blog out!)  Here is all the info you need to know about tamarind, and while it is in this ingredient list, you by no means have to search high and low for it.  If you already have it in your fridge - awesome!  If not, maybe you feel up to trying out new markets in your city (see first paragraph above.)  Whatever your plan of attack, don't give up on the recipe if you don't have tamarind paste.  It will still be fabulous.

So, Pad Thai is a spicy rice noodle dish, sometimes with just tofu, or with shrimp or chicken or pork, or a whole conglomeration of them all!  To keep it purely veggie, omit the fish sauce and sub in extra soy sauce, if you like.  There aren't typically a whole lot of veggies in pad Thai (I snuck some cabbage and carrots into this just to up the nutrition.)  If I had my thinking cap on I would have picked up some bean sprouts to add at the last second too.  Next time.  And use your peeler to create long wisps of carrot prettiness, okay?

The real kicker is the scrambled egg that's added at the last minute.  You must, oh must! garnish with the chopped roasted peanuts and enough lime juice to make you pucker.  Pucker.  Great word.  Let's say it again.  Pucker.  Good.  It's not a complicated dish, just a couple of steps.  But promise me you won't omit the scrambled egg...

I loved how this dish turned out, though I wouldn't have soaked my rice noodles quite so early on in the process.  My fear is that they sat too long after being drained and got a wee mushy, hence they kind of fell apart after the stirring.  Or maybe I'm just a robust stirring girl.  Either way, I've made adjustments in the recipe.  There.  Take-out you made all by yourself.  Now go and do something wild and crazy like sign up for French classes or tango lessons or go on a date with someone who isn't typically your, errrrr, type.  Who knows what good things could come from it? 

Pad Thai with Shrimp and Tofu

8 ounce package of wide, flat rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3-4 limes, plus one whole lime for garnish)
1 tbsp tamarind paste
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp fish sauce (if you don't have fish sauce, use soy sauce)
1-2 tbsp Sriracha or other hot spicy chili garlic sauce you like. Adjust heat accordingly!
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 package (14 ounces) firm or extra firm tofu, drained, thinly sliced and patted dry
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 cups cabbage, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 scallions, thinly sliced (save some for garnishing plates in the end)
coarse salt
12 -14 large shrimp, raw, deveined and peeled
4 tbsp roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, tamarind paste, soy and fish sauce, Sriracha and brown sugar.  Set aside.  In a large non-stick skillet or wok, heat 1 tsp canola oil over med-high heat, tilting to coat the pan.  Add egg and swirl to coat bottom, and cook just until set, about 1 minute.  Transfer egg to cutting board and slice into thin strips.  Set aside.  Add 4 tsp of canola oil to wok and add tofu in a single layer.  Brown on both sides, about 7 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and set aside.  At this point, pour boiling water over your rice noodles, and let stand about 8 minutes until soft.  Drain.
Add 2 tbsp oil to wok and cook the carrots, cabbage, garlic, green onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the lime juice mixture and bring to a simmer.  Add the shrimp, cook until shrimp pink, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add egg and tofu and cooked noodles.  Toss gently until all is warmed through.  Season to taste with more salt, Sriracha, if needed.  Divide among  plates and garnish with lime wedges, peanuts, cilantro and more green onions.  Serves 3-4.  Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, Jan/Feb 2012. 


  1. Renee, I love Asian take-out food and can't wait to try this Pad Thai! I don't have tamarind paste in my pantry, so I look forward to picking it up. Lovely post!

  2. YUMMY!! Looks fabulous. I love that you added the cabbage and carrots. Sounds delicious and healthy.

  3. i am in love with you butterless brownie (yay yummy dates!) and this home made pad thai..something ive never attempted in my kitchen before..but def one dish i cant resist ordering when im at the thai restaurant (which is pretty often!)

    looks like a bit of effort but id say its worth it looking at the result!!

    btw, congrats on reaching 1 year blog anniversary :)

  4. Jess, do look for the tamarind - you will like! Steph, thank you so much! Viv, thanks for the well wishes - give the Pad Thai a go - you won't be disappointed :)

  5. Renee, pad thai is so good and I never thought to make it myself. You make it look pretty easy and so delicious. You're right, it's good to move beyond the comfort zone!
    Have a great weekend,

  6. Fantastic version of my favourite of all take out dishes. Have the best memories of eating this on a beach in Phuket with sand between my toes.

  7. Wow- wish I lived around the corner from you. This is my kind of take out! Gorgeous photos of what I'm sure was a delicious dish.

  8. Great looking recipe! I've tried several pad thai recipes with very limited success. It never tastes like my favorite Thai/Laos Restaurant. Excited to try this one!

  9. Hi - I made this on Sunday and it was AMAZING. My guests said better than any pad thai they have ordered out. And I agreed. I did search a bit for Tamarind paste.. but could not see where you actually used it in recipe??? I ended up adding it to the soy/fish sauce and then using a hand held blender to mix. Did I miss it in the recipe above though??? Either way, it was DELISH! I also used red cabbage which made the dish a bit pink, again, no one minded. I was not convinced I could make this, and am absolutely on board now! I will make this again, no question. THANK YOU!

  10. LLJM - thanks for pointing out my error - but you did right by adding it to the soy/fish sauce. Will fix right away - thank you! So happy your guests liked it!

  11. Let's have a double date night. You're cooking. And you're making this.

  12. Made a vegetarian version of this tonight - turned out great! Yum!


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