Growing up in Los Angeles and living in the Bay Area, I have been influenced by Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisine. I am well-versed in eating spicy dishes ... I am equally comfortable eating some Ma Por Tofu as I am eating an excruciatingly hot Mexican mole over roasted vegetables. There is something about spicy ethnic food that is just so satisfying.
When I am in the mood for something spicy and delicious, and don't have much time to cook, I immediately think of whipping up some Pad Thai. Pad Thai is one of those dishes that is layered with spicy, exotic flavors that you can just keep on eating and eating. I usually have seconds and also like eating it cold, right out the Gladware in the fridge, and it tastes just as good or better the second day.
My Pad Thai is not only vegan, it's also gluten-free. You can adjust the amount of heat that you add to this dish to make it more or less spicy. Here, I start off my recommending a "medium" amount of heat. If you usually order your meals "mild," I recommend using 1/4 tsp. of red pepper. If you order your meals "medium," I recommend using the 1/2 tsp. noted in the recipe below. If you like your dishes really spicy, as do I, I recommend you use a whole teaspoon of red pepper flakes or more if you really want to clear out your sinuses.
Here is the recipe:
8 ounces rice noodles
Toasted sesame or canola oil for sauteing the tofu
1 package (16 oz.) extra-firm organic tofu, cubed
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup vegan granulated sugar
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce (San-J reduced sodium brand is excellent)
1/3 cup lime (or lemon) juice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
1/2 cup bean sprouts, for garnish
Sliced lemons and limes, for garnish (optional)
Peanuts, roughly chopped, for garnish (optional)
Cook the rice noodles, according to the package directions, drain, and immediately return them to the pot, secured with a tight lid to keep them from drying out excessively. They will re-moisten once you add them to the sauce below.
Heat oil in a pan and saute the tofu until it's golden brown. I usually use half toasted sesame, half canola oil to saute the tofu. Sprinkle on the salt and fresh ground pepper while it's cooking.
In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, tamari, lime juice and red pepper together using a whisk. Set aside.
In a separate large-sized saute pan, heat oil (half toasted sesame, half canola) and add green onions and garlic. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes till the scallions wilt.
To that pan, add the peanut butter mixture, bean sprouts and tofu and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the noodles, combine well and cook just until all of the ingredients are heated through. If the noodles seem a little dry, add a little more tamari to the pan, but not too much ... you just want to make sure that all of the noodles are coated with sauce.
After you serve the Pad Thai on a place, top with bean sprouts and generous amounts of cilantro ... cilantro makes it taste refreshing and more delicious. You may also garnish with a some coarsely-chopped peanuts for a bit more crunch.
Lastly, if you keep a bottle of hot sauce on your desk like I do, meaning you REALLY like your food hot, you can drizzle your Pad Thai with some Thai Sriracha hot sauce - it tastes great!
I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as I do. Cheers!
The "Spicy" Vegan Voice