Pad Thai with Avocado and Spicy Greens
Makes 4 servings
How you prepare pad thai, that irressistable Thai noodle takeout classic, is just as important, perhaps even more, than what’s in it. Pad thai is essentially a stir fry and the rules still apply; a great big pan to cook it in; high heat; never crowd or overwhelm the pan. Like any stir fry it seems like 90% of the work is in preparing everything before you cook it, making pad thai an ideal dish for making all the elements in advance on the weekend for fast weeknight dinners.
There are countless variations of chewy noodles, crunchy sprouts, tangy sweet sauce and peanuts for every one of pad thai’s rabid, legion fans. My version is enriched with diced avocado and peppery greens; fresh radish green are so fresh and fiery you may need to hold back on the chile sauce on the side, but mild tasty kale makes a fine substitute. I’ve also come around to using a touch of ketchup in the sauce; it adds a rosey hue common to some restaurant versions of the dish. My sauce is on the sweet side, so if you prefer cut down to 3-4 tablespoons of brown or palm sugar. I like to load up on the ground peanuts too, but that’s just me.
8 ounces Thai rice noodles
1 recipe Pressed Baked Tofu, or purchased baked tofu
3 cups torn arugula, watercress, radish greens or finely shredded kale
6 tablespoons canola or peanut oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts separated
Pad Thai sauce:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar or grated palm sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons all natural ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow miso
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp or 2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 finely minced red chile pepper or 2 teaspoons hot chile sauce or to taste
1 ripe avocado, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups mung bean sprouts
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2/3 cup ground roasted peanuts
1. Prepare all of the following ingredients and arrange them next to your stir fry set up. You’ll need a fair amount of counter space as things will move fast once the stir fry begins. In a large bowl cover noodles with 4 inches of hot water and let soak. Dice tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Have ready torn greens, minced garlic, and shallots. Finely slice white part of scallion, and slice the green parts into 1/2 long pieces and keep separate.
2. In a measuring cup whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. Rinse the bean sprouts in cold water and drain. Keep the topping ingredients: avocado, sprouts, chopped cilantro leaves and ground peanuts on a separate part of the counter top, or if you like divide into serving bowls and place on the table for dinner guests to add to their noodles as they please.
From here forward you’ll be cooking half of the ingredients at a time. If it makes it easier for you divide the ingredients in half, or just eyeball it and keep a mental note (for example, don’t add all of the garlic the first batch of pad thai).
3. About 15 minutes before serving time, drain the noodles. Heat a wok or large deep 12 inch stainless steel skillet or a seasoned wok over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of oil. Add half of the greens and green scallion tops and using tongs saute for 2 minutes until wilted. Remove from the wok immediately and add 1 tablespoon of oil, then add half of the garlic, white scallion bottoms, and shallots and sautee, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes until shallots are golden. Stir in half of the tofu and sautee for 2-3 minutes until edges begin to brown. Now add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oil, half of the drained noodles and return the cooked greens to the wok. Use tongs to mix for 1 minute then pour on half of the pad thai sauce. Continue to fold and stir noodles and fry for another 5-6 minutes until crusty bits of noodles have formed. If some of the noodles stick to the surface of the wok don’t worry, just scrap them off with your tongs or a thin metal spatula and keep at it; those crust noodle bits can be lovely.
4. Mound hot pad thai onto one serving plate or two serving dishes and top with with sprouts, cilantro, ground peanuts, diced avocado and a lime wedge. If desired you may instead mix everything together in a large bowl (again using tongs to handle the noodles) and then serve. Eat immediately!