Photos by Lindsey Johnson
If there were ever one quintessential Thai dish, it would have to be Pad Thai. I mean, the name even says “Thai.”
Pad Thai was the first Thai dish I ever tried while dining out. For years after that I gobbled the stuff, eventually expanding my horizons to curries, stir-fries and all sorts of other Thai delights. It was a new vegetarian’s dream. I was in bliss, until one dark day when a helpful server noted that I had requested tofu Pad Thai (as opposed to the other option, which was probably shrimp), “…because I’m a vegetarian.” That was when I learned that Pad Thai is typically not vegetarian. Nor, sadly, were many of the curries and stir-fries I’d also been enjoying. The culprit: fish sauce.
I still go out for Thai. I’ve learned that lots of places will leave the fish sauce out if you request it, for a truly vegetarian Pad Thai. I’ve also learned that making your own Thai food at home isn’t that difficult. Happy day!
While I see lots of vegetarian Pad Thai recipes online and in cookbooks, I don’t see many that replicate classic Pad Thai. Peanut sauce over noodles is a popular vegetarian dish you’ll often see, and it’s usually delicious. However, my goal for this post was to replicate the dish I was painfully denied while dining out, all those years ago. That dish would be made with stir fried rice noodles in a tangy tamarind sauce, which is what you’d probably get in Thailand if you ordered this from a street vendor. (Yes, they sell this stuff to you right on the street in Thailand. Can you imagine?!)
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You have the option of including tofu and eggs in my version. Tofu replaces the shrimp and adds some protein. The eggs add a touch of authenticity but are certainly not required, and leaving them out makes the dish totally vegan, for those who prefer to roll that way.
If you’re not into baby bok choy, or it just isn’t available, feel free to sub other veggies. Snow peas, carrots, baby corn and broccoli all work great. You’ll need about 3 cups of whatever vegetables you use.
Any neutral-flavored cooking oil that you have on hand can be used for this recipe.
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