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
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.