I love ordering pad thai at Thai restaurants. It's such an interesting noodle dish and I just love it. We've tried to make it at home before, but it just didn't taste like the pad thai I get from restaurants.
I was adventurous and tried this recipe, which used scary things like tamarind (what is tamarind??). I didn't get tamarind from a "pliable block," as directed in the recipe; instead, I used some tamarind paste I found at Balducci's. I used a sparse amount comparatively since the paste was more concentrated than the "pliable block" would have been. Therefore, I skipped the step about simmering and sieving the tamarind. I also don't have a wok so I just used a big saucepan.
I also reduced the oil by a bit. I'll admit I still used way more oil than we usually prefer - and we both agreed it was still pretty oily. But I see the purpose of it and would probably use just a tiny bit less than I did today when we make it again in the future (AND WE WILL). It is excellent and tastes exactly like the ones I order from restaurants. I am so super excited!
I decorated the plate with Sriracha:
Vegetarian Pad Thai
From Gourmet, 12/07
In Thailand, people are fiercely loyal to their favorite pad Thai—which is painstakingly made one plate at a time. After a taste of this quicker vegetarian version, we think you'll start to feel that same sense of loyalty.
12 ounces dried flat rice noodles (1/4 inch wide; sometimes called pad Thai or banh pho)
3 tablespoons tamarind (from a pliable block)
1 cup boiling-hot water
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)
1 bunch scallions
4 large shallots
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
6 large eggs
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups bean sprouts (1/4 pound)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer; a well-seasoned 14-inch flat-bottomed wok
Accompaniments: lime wedges; cilantro sprigs; Sriracha
Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and cover with a dampened paper towel.
Meanwhile, make sauce by soaking tamarind pulp in boiling-hot water in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Force mixture through a sieve into a bowl, discarding seeds and fibers. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Cut scallions into 2-inch pieces. Halve pale green and white parts lengthwise.
Cut shallots crosswise into very thin slices with slicer.
Rinse tofu, then cut into 1-inch cubes and pat very dry.
Heat oil in wok over medium heat until hot, then fry half of shallots over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Carefully strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Reserve shallot oil and spread fried shallots on paper towels. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.) Wipe wok clean.
Reheat shallot oil in wok over high heat until hot. Fry tofu in 1 layer, gently turning occasionally, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer tofu to paper towels using a slotted spoon. Pour off frying oil and reserve.
Lightly beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 2 tablespoons shallot oil in wok over high heat until it shimmers. Add eggs and swirl to coat side of wok, then cook, stirring gently with a spatula, until cooked through. Break into chunks with spatula and transfer to a plate.
Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour in 6 tablespoons shallot oil, then swirl to coat side of wok. Stir-fry scallions, garlic, and remaining uncooked shallots until softened, about 1 minute.
Add noodles and stir-fry over medium heat (use 2 spatulas if necessary) 3 minutes. Add tofu, bean sprouts, and 1 1/2 cups sauce and simmer, turning noodles over to absorb sauce evenly, until noodles are tender, about 2 minutes.
Stir in additional sauce if desired, then stir in eggs and transfer to a large shallow serving dish.
Sprinkle pad Thai with peanuts and fried shallots and serve with lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and Sriracha.
Yield: 4-6 servings