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Friday, August 12, 2011

Vegan Phad Thai

Phad Thai and greens with peanut sauce

Thai food was one of the hardest things for me to give up. I remember doing an overhaul on my diet and taking out everything I was allergic to, except for a periodic visit to a Thai restaurant. Which meant searching out the nearest restroom and developing a mental map of bathrooms on the route home. I couldn't figure out what I was allergic to on the menu. Was there soy in something? Was it the mysterious fish sauce? It was probably a saving grace that I became vegan, which rules out a lot of the "vegetarian" dishes on the menu and prevents the sketchy ride home (unfortunately, a lot of vegetarian listed items still have fish or oyster sauce).

It is really hard to find a good Phad Thai recipe on the internet, but I am really hoping people like this recipe. The vinegar adds the tang of the fish sauce, and tamarind lends a more authentic taste. My family enjoys it. I like to just cook up the sauce without the noodles, sprouts, coconut aminos, or water and use it as a sweet and sour sauce on fresh, shredded veggies.

Phad Thai
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, sliced
1/2 c. fresh tamarind paste (recipe below - if you can't do fresh, do 3-4 Tb of packaged tamarind paste)
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 T maple syrup
2 T coconut aminos (or 1 T tamari if you aren't allergic)
1/4 t+ cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 t salt
1 lime juiced
1 pack rice noodles, pre-soaked for at least 30 minutes in cold water
1/4 c water
1-2 cups mung bean sprouts
3 scallions, cut on the bias

shredded carrots, red cabbage, and peanuts (all optional)

Pre-soak rice stick noodles for 30 minutes in cold water. The noodles should be very pliable, but not mushy or slimy. Heat up a wok over the stove top to medium heat, and add an oil that tolerates high temperatures (coconut oil or grapeseed oil work very well). Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots start becoming translucent. Add the tumeric, tamarind paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, coconut aminos, and cayenne pepper. Cook until the ingredients are well combined and the vinegar smell diminishes a bit. Add the noodles and stir until the noodles are well coated. Add 1/4 cup of water, lime juice, and bean sprouts. Add the scallions and toss after the mung beans have cooked a bit.

Want a lower carb option?

White rice noodles are high in simple carbohydrates and starch. Use a vegetable spiralizer or potato peeler to create zucchini noodles. Cook everything but the zucchini noodles (and omitted rice noodles of course) as outlined above, and combine the garnish and sauce with the raw zucchini noodles before serving.

Zucchini noodles a la spiralizer
Tamarind Paste

Tamarind pods with a hard shell exterior
My friend came over the other day for dinner and a movie and saw me working with the tamarind. "WHAT IS THAT???" She thought I was conducting some massively unsanitary project in my kitchen and I had to laugh. If you are lucky enough to live near an Asian market with fresh tamarind pods, I recommend going to the trouble of making your own paste. Fresh always tastes best. They aren't very visually appealing, but they add a lot of flavor to sauces!

Tamarind pods have a hard outer shell, and a sticky, fibrous, pod-filled interior. Crack the outer shell and pull out the interior. Be alert for any signs of mold. Pull the vein-like fibers off the tamarind and put them in a pot of water. Turn the heat on and cook for 20 minutes. It does not need to come to a full boil - a low simmer is plenty. Some people use their hands to squish the tamarind and remove seeds and fibers, but I prefer to use a fine mesh sieve and wooden spoon. A little water transferred from the pan is fine, but you don't want to intentionally use the pan water in your paste. The paste is best used the same day, but will keep in the fridge for an additional 2 days.

Tamarind pods and the finished paste


  1. wow this looks great. i hate that thai places call it vegetarian and still have fish sauce. the only way i found out once was that my cat was super interested in my leftovers. i was pretty mad because i'd eaten there a lot.

  2. I am so excited about trying this recipe. I happen to love Thai food but I always have a reaction after eating it. Most likely from the soy, most definitely if there is MSG. But you never know.

    I never looked into making my own tamarind sauce. I hope I can find a local Asian grocery store. Have you ever tried freezing the pods to store before use?

  3. tamarind and turmeric are just unusual but amazing combination. I love Thai cuisine, they own distinct and very nice blends of flavor.

  4. I have an asian market close to my house and I'm always scared to go in not knowing what everything is. Especially if it doesn't have a tag on it! At least I'll know what the strange "peanut" looking things are. This does look delicious! I love pad thai and never thought of making it on my own in a healthy fresh way.