the taste space

Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu and Kelp Noodles

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 6, 2013

This is another favourite repeater recipe I have been sitting on way too long. Gena’s recent post asking for my tamarind suggestions reminded me I hadn’t shared it yet.

Pay attention, dudes: the secret to capturing someone’s heart lies in their belly. Who wouldn’t like a man who knows his way in the kitchen?

One of Rob’s cooking specialties has always been pad thai. One of my favourite meals at restaurants has always been pad thai, but only if done right. Not tomatoey, certainly not filled with ketchup, and to be honest, I never understood why pad thai recipes in the raw community were made from nut butters (certainly a delicious coleslaw, though).

When we first were dating, I brought Rob to a restaurant, raving about their “authentic” pad thai. Only after I sat down and both of us received our orders of pad thai, did I worry Rob would find it below his high expectations. Thank goodness, he loved it, his recipe is a dead knock-off AND he loves making it!

Robbie-style cooking is usually a lot more low-key than mine, especially after he has made the dish a few times. Reading his original recipe leaves a bit to the imagination, but we have also modified it throughout the years. For me, he now omits the egg and swaps Bragg’s for the soy sauce/fish sauce. For the longest time, I tried to find a substitute for the rice noodles. I’ve tried quinoa and zucchini noodles, both with ok results. However, my preferred version is with kelp noodles which hold up well to the tangy sauce.

What doesn’t change is the strong emphasis on tamarind. I’ve talked about tamarind before, but it is worth highlighting again. It truly makes pad thai sing.  For those who love sweet-sour as much as I do, tamarind also falls into the love category. Rob likes to remind me that fresh tamarind pods look like poo, but you can’t tell by looking at the pulp or concentrate. There are a few ways to buy tamarind. The blocks of tamarind pulp are cheap ($1) but you need to soak and strain it before you use it. Rob and I have converted to using tamarind concentrate ($2-3), though, since it is easier to use and more consistent in its taste.

Rob learned how to make pad thai in a cooking class while travelling in Thailand and his second tip for glorious pad thai, after using tamarind of course, is to make sure you cook each meal to order. It works well for customization of spice levels, but the flavours are spot-on, too. The problem is how to do this for a big group. We will prep all the ingredients at the same time, customizing each meal as we go. If the group is big, we don’t usually eat at the same time, but it is perfect for 2.

Do you have a signature dish for special occasions? Any favourite recipes for tamarind? We also really like tamarind lentils.

vegan pad thai with tofu and kelp noodles

This is my submission to this month’s Pasta Please for chilies.

Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu and Kelp Noodles

100-200g firm tofu, pressed and chopped into small cubes
scant tsp of oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes, or red chili (to taste)
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1.5 tsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
1/2 package kelp noodles, soaked
bean sprouts (around 1/2 cup, not too many)
2 tbsp green onions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
1-2 tbsp chopped peanuts (reserve some for garnish)

1. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add tofu and cook, flipping so that most of the sides are brown, cooking around 10 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, around 1 minute.

2. Stir in tamarind concentrate and Bragg’s. Stir in noodles and toss to coat. Heat through. Stir in bean sprouts, green onions and peanuts and heat through.

3. Remove from heat and top with additional green onions and peanuts. Repeat with your next serving.

Serves 1.

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26 Responses

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  1. Rob said, on April 6, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    The secret is always MORE TAMARIND!

  2. kitblu said, on April 6, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    What is your opinion of bean thread noodles in this dish? I am not sure I can find kelp noodles although they are already on my shopping list.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 6, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      Bean noodles would work just fine. Rob usually uses the rice stick noodles but I simply prefer the kelp noodles. :)

  3. moderngirlnutrition said, on April 6, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Kelp noodles sound interesting! :)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 7, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      Any noodle would work here (rice noodles are the most authentic, though).. I just happen to prefer kelp noodles. :)

  4. Hannah said, on April 6, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Tamarind is the best. I agree with you about the nut butter in raw versions thing, but, well, as soon as you’ve taken a traditional dish and decided to leave out the cooking side of things, the whole authenticity point is moot, don’t you think?

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 7, 2013 at 7:31 AM

      I hear what you’re saying, Hannah, but I still have no clue how raw pad thai has any resemblance to real pad thai…a noodle salad, sure, but not pad thai. Although raw pizzas and lasagnas don’t taste similar either but are more similar in visual recognition, but perhaps I am harping on it because it was one of the first dishes we tried at a raw resto and we were sadly disappointed. I want people to like it for what it truly tastes like. :)

  5. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts said, on April 7, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    This looks incredible.I have never had kelp noodles but I think this would be the perfect dish to try them out in!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 7, 2013 at 7:26 AM

      I definitely prefer kelp noodles in a citrus or Asian profile. This would be a good place to try them out to see if you like them. :)

  6. Joanne said, on April 7, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    I actually have some rice noodles in the fridge that need to be used so I think pad thai is going to be on the menu this week! It’s for sure one of my favorite thai dishes!

  7. [...] wasn’t expecting this week to be all about tried-and-true favourites, but I don’t think you [...]

  8. Gabby @ the veggie nook said, on April 7, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Love the idea of throwing kelp noodles in there!! I need to pick some up and make this!

  9. Johanna GGG said, on April 7, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    You are lucky that pad thai is Rob’s fave dish to make. I love pad thai and have made it a few times but the recipe that I found and loves is a bit fussy – i keep meaning to make it more simple so I make it more – I love pad thai and it is something I gravitate towards in thai restaurants – tamarind intrigues me – the sour taste can be too much but I made alice harts tamarind tempeh and noodles which I loved. Not sure how else I use it but I like having a little pot in my fridge. Will have a look at your recipe for some ideas, though I do love rice noodle. Given that you eat it often, do you think cashews would work in pad thai as we don’t tend to have peanuts in the house given sylvia’s allergy?

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 8, 2013 at 6:48 AM

      Hey Johanna, I remember bookmarking your recipe. I have gravitated to simple stir fries more often these days so I should brush that out of the archives. :) Yes, cashews could totally work here, too (toasted would be more flavourful).

      • Johanna GGG said, on April 9, 2013 at 9:05 AM

        Thanks Janet – after my question I noticed that Rob actually said peanuts or cashews in his post so that was good to see

  10. Genevieve said, on April 9, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    I’m glad to see you’ve updated your pad thai recipe! After the last version that I made with tamarind in the sauce, I don’t think I’ll ever make it without that ingredient again! And if I find a guy who makes a great pad thai as his specialty, I would say that’s a great catch ;)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 10, 2013 at 5:36 AM

      I know other recipes get way more involved but this one is simple and tasty. We don’t usually vere away from it… But yeah, Rob is a keeper on so many levels. I remember I was just thrilled to learn he wasn’t living with his parents (when we first met).. HAHAHHA! :)

  11. Connie said, on May 10, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    I just made this and I failed :( Not sure what I did wrong , but this was a disaster for me . I LLLLLLLLLOVE pad thai , but I messed this up….BAD!! My noodles – I used rice- became one. Really – one big clump of noodle.
    and the flavour was really tart or salty – almost like eating a salty lemon.
    Haven’t had a fail like this in awhile , but I will try this agian cos what I did looks nothing like what you did so I think it’s not the recipe ..ikes … but my cooking……
    yours looks so yummmmmmy!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on May 12, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      Oh no, Connie. I am so sorry. The rice noodles can be finicky, so you may have overcooked them. Rob usually just adds boiling water to them and let’s them sit a bit. For the sauce, I wonder if your tamarind concentrate is more tart than ours? We’ve used Tamicon and some other brand (name eludes me at the moment) and both were ok… but maybe add some sugar to balance the sour next time? Or add less tamarind? Pad thai is more of a mix of salty, sweet, spicy, sour… we just happen to adore the tamarind aspect a lot.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on May 12, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      I just went back to Rob’s original post and his friend posted this that may help:
      1) If you use tamarind concentrate, you might want to reduce the amount used — it’s really friggin strong. It’s also very clumpy and sticky.
      2) Take time to properly fry the tofu or it’ll just end up weird
      3) Eggs fry quickly in a hot pan, you might want them pre-scrambled before putting them in pan or stir quickly!
      4) Don’t add too much soya sauce — especially if it’s salty; and if it is salty, don’t add salted peanuts, even if that’s the only kind you have in your house.
      5) If you decide to make 1 REALLY big serving (i.e. 3 servings), make sure you have a REALLY big pan, ’cause it sucks trying to get tofu out from between the stove and cupboards where it fell while you were trying to stir.
      6) If at first you fail horribly and have no idea what you are eating, see if you can sucker Rob into cooking for you.

      Unfortunately #6 is not available to you. ;)

      • Connie said, on May 12, 2013 at 11:03 PM

        ha! I read #6 – thought ‘great idea’ and then read your comment :)
        His friend’s post seems exactly what happened to me – my tamarind was clumpy and sticky – my peanuts were salty and that I’m sure added to the salty of the soy sauce. Oh and I had tofu “jumping” outta my pan the entire time I was cooking it – and that was with a large skillet! I still have the tofu between my stove and my cupboard. I’m hoping one of my cats gets curious and pulls it out before I have to move the stove! I doubled the recipe so lots of tofu – well at least to start with .
        I am not giving up! I am going to see if I can find the brand of Tamarind that you mentioned and I am going to try a different noodle .
        I’ll be back!
        Thanks for the info

      • janet @ the taste space said, on May 13, 2013 at 7:22 AM

        No prob, glad it helps. :)

  12. […] our kitchen and Rob’s signature dish, at that. But these photos turned out much better than my first post. We tinkered with the recipe only slightly, mainly by adding more tamarind. However, that’s […]

  13. teeny said, on September 15, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    I will definitely make this tomorrow, but I’d like to add lime juice and little bit of agave syrup. I’ve never used Bragg liquid Amino. Interesting… Thanks for your recipe. Yum.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on September 16, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      Sounds good, although lime is also sour like tamarind, so I’d definitely use less tamarind. Soy sauce or tamari can easily replace the Bragg’s. Please let me know how you enjoy it :)


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