During lockdown last year, I really enjoyed experimenting with thai cooking, and one of the most well established thai dishes that I fell in love with was pad thai. I tried several versions, some with meat, some with fish but none were better than Meera Sodha's vegan 'Peanut butter and purple sprouting broccoli pad thai' from her amazing recipe book East.
The sauce is incredible and I've not changed it a bit, but I've made some adjustments to the rest of the dish based on my taste preferences, and to make the ingredients list a bit more accessible.
When you look at the ingredients, it does look like quite a lot. But don't let that put you off as it all comes together remarkably quickly, and they're ingredients you'll use again and again once you've got them in, especially the toppings as they elevate any stir fry or rice dish. I guarantee you will find ways to use crispy onions on everything once you have them in the cupboard.
The most important ingredient which makes the sauce is tamarind paste. It's not the easiest ingredient to get hold of but I've had a look around a few supermarkets and found it in Sainsburys and Tesco. It's also readily available online and in Asian supermarkets.
This Peanut and Broccoli Pad Thai is the perfect meat-free weeknight meal and it's great fun to give everyone the chance to decorate their dish with their favourite toppings. Give it a try and let me know how you get on.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 3 or a hungry 2 with a lunch leftover)
For the pad thai sauce:
6 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter (you could use smooth but the peanuts give everything a more interesting texture)
2 tablespoons of tamarind paste
3 tablespoons of brown rice syrup/agave nectar (or honey)
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice (approx 2 limes)
For the pad thai:
1 head of broccoli
3 cloves garlic, minced or 1 heaped teaspoon garlic paste
2 teaspoons ginger paste
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
160g pack of marinated tofu pieces. I really like the Cauldron marinated tofu pieces but if you'd prefer to buy a block and chop it yourself then do that. It will just take slightly longer to cook.
1/2 pack of thai rice noodles (I use the Mai Thai brand which are widely available). Alternatively, if you would prefer to substitute with egg/rice noodle nests I would go recommend one nest per person.
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Toppings: The toppings MAKE this dish.... You can have any or all of the below, I go with all of them :)
Handful of chopped spring onions (taken from above ingredients)
Black and/or white sesame seeds
Drizzle of sesame oil
Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 lime to squeeze over the top.
Firstly, make the sauce. Mix all the sauce ingredients together slowly in a bowl until they are a relatively smooth consistency. It will take a little while for the peanut butter to mix in so persevere. Add 1 tablespoon of water, mix again then set aside.
Next, prepare all your vegetables (and tofu if you're using a block instead of the already marinated and chopped stuff). Deseed and finely chop the green chilli, mince the garlic, trim the broccoli into small florets, and finely chop the spring onion. Arrange everything into separate piles next to the hob.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions then rinse under cold water, drain, and drizzle with a teaspoon of rapeseed oil to stop the noodles from sticking to each other, then set aside.
In a large non stick frying pan or a wok, heat a drizzle of rapeseed oil in the pan on a medium high heat then add the tofu for a couple of minutes until heated through.
Meanwhile add the broccoli florets to a separate pan of boiling water for two minutes, to give them a head start.
Add the garlic, ginger paste and chilli to the tofu and cook for 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to move the broccoli across to the main pan/wok.
Add the sauce and spring onions (reserve a handful for toppings), stir to combine then leave to cook for 2 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low then slowly incorporate the noodles handful by handful until everything is combined.
Portion up into bowls then top with spring onions, sesame seeds, crispy onions, a tiny drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkling of finely chopped mint, and a squeeze of lime and tuck in!
The best bit of advice I can give you for this one is to do all the preparation in advance as it cooks so quickly! You won't have time in between steps to chop anything up.
I really hope you enjoy this one as much as we do, and please do go and check out Meera Sodha's amazing recipes. This is a slightly adapted version of her original dish and is a little more typical ingredient friendly but her ideas are inspired and she really shows you how vegetarian and vegan dishes can be done without sacrificing any flavour.
As ever if you give this one a try, do let me know, and don't forget to snap a picture and tag me on instagram or twitter. I love seeing people cooking these recipes, and making them their own. If you've got other ideas for toppings then give them a try, maybe some crushed peanuts, dried chillies, or even some sriracha? Play around and let me know if you find a better combination :) happy cooking!