I’ve been pursuing the essence of Pad Thai for a while now. If you’re a regular Whole Ingredient reader you’ll remember that I was rather excited when I captured the essence of carrot cake and found a way to recreate all the taste of the original recipe, using raw, unrefined ingredients.
So I am absolutely thrilled to report, after much trial and error, that I have harnessed the essence of Pad Thai!
This Hot & Sour Pad Thai Salad makes the most of the ingredients that make this dish so delicious, while allowing the beautiful, whole flavours to shine through with the zesty punch of a burst of lime to the eye. But in a far more pleasant manner, obviously.
So what are some of the flavours and textures that make this Pad Thai Salad just so darn tasty? Well, it’s
- spicy with red chillies;
- crunchy with toasted pecans (yes, pecans!) and coconut;
- fresh, sour and alive with lime;
- light with zoodles instead of noodles; and
- naturally sweet with dates, not sugar.
I absolutely used to love eating out at Thai restaurants; in particular the now long-gone Galangal of my old street Parkway, in Camden. Starting with best-friend dinners in my late teens, there began a love affair with a restaurant that would capture memories of first dates with Dan, and too-many-to-mention lunches with my then boss and soon-to-be partner in crime, Bryan; when we worked across the street.
And a love affair with with the hot, sour, sweet and nutty flavours that make Thai food so tasty.
And there lies the double edge of that culinary sword: Pad Thai’s starring cast of shrimp paste and egg meant that we had to part ways.
But not one to give up on a challenge, I started to think: if you want something, you have to make it happen! So the experiments began in earnest. And I think you’ll agree that once you taste this salad, all you’ll be able to think about is just how lip-smackingly delicious this new Pad Thai really is. And here’s why:
- it has all the flavours you’re familiar with, and some exciting new additions to make it sing;
- it’s bursting with whole ingredients, making it healthy, free from refined sugar and processed noodles;
- it’s incredibly easy to make – this is a great mid-week dinner; and
- it has a great balance of fresh vegetables, protein and nutrients: a super healthy alternative to a restaurant favourite!
I absolutely love tenderstem broccoli, and I’ve been finding lots of ways to incorporate it into our dinners. Adding it to this Pad Thai not only gives you a great new way to enjoy this ingredient – which mops up all of the delicious marinade – but it’s so good for you! This stem (sorry) of the nutrient-rich brassica family has been shown to contain the highest levels of glucosinolates, which are thought to be significant in fighting serious illness.
And using pecans instead of peanuts? Well, I do like to wander from the path of tradition; and the toasted, rich flavour balances really well with the crisp, raw salad ingredients. Trust me!
- 30g desiccated coconut
- 25g pecans, chopped
- 1 block (around 200g) firm tofu
- For the marinade:
- 60ml water
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp tamari, good soy sauce or liquid aminos
- Zest and juice of 1 lime (unwaxed), a little juice kept back for the raw salad
- 1 red chilli
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 dates, pitted
- Black pepper
- For raw the salad:
- 1 red pepper
- 1 medium carrot
- 15g fresh coriander
- 4 spring onions
- 150g beansprouts
- Squeeze of lime
- 10g black sesame seeds
- For the cooked salad:
- 1 tsp solid coconut oil (sesame oil would also work well)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red onion
- 200g tenderstem broccoli
- At least an hour before you start cooking, prepare the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a food processor and blending until combined.
- Cut the tofu into 1cm pieces, place in a container and cover with the marinade. Leave in the fridge until required.
- Thinly slice and de-seed the pepper, slice the carrot into thin batons, chop the coriander (leaves and stems) and slice the spring onions. Put these in a large bowl with the beansprouts, black sesame seeds and the remaining squeeze of lime.
- Thinly slice the onion and cut the broccoli lengthways to have even thinner stems.
- Heat a large frying pan on the hob to a medium temperature. Toast the pecans until they begin to turn brown, add in the desiccated coconut and continue to toast until this turns brown too. Remove immediately and put aside in a bowl.
- Add the coconut oil to the pan and mince the garlic into it, then add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften and brown.
- Add in the tofu, with the marinade, and give it all a good stir. After a couple of minutes, I like to spoon some of the marinade out into the bowl with the raw ingredients, so that they're nicely coated in all of the lovely flavours.
- Add the broccoli to the pan and cook until wilted, and most of the marinade has been soaked up.
- Remove from the heat, stir into the large bowl with the salad, and serve with a sprinkling of the toasted pecans and coconut.