Really great Phad Thai is not difficult to make. In fact, it can easily be done in 30 minutes – faster than you can get it delivered. There are loads of different recipes for this dish out there (and I don’t doubt that each is wonderful in its own right) but as usual, I have found that keeping it simple yields the most satisfying results.
You only need a few not-so-average pantry ingredients for my version of Phad Thai – tamarind paste, fish sauce, and rice noodles. I highly recommend Neera’s tamarind paste if you can find it. Do just a few minutes of prep and slicing and you’ll be well on your way to noodle nirvana.
Phad Thai with Tofu:
1 12-14 oz. package thin, flat rice noodles
1 12 oz. pkg. firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
3 medium shallots, sliced into rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tamarind paste (usually found with the Indian foods)
3 Tbsp. hot water
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1-2 tsp. fish sauce
2/3 C. roasted, salted peanuts, finely chopped or crushed
thinly sliced scallions or bean sprouts (optional)
Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot tap water. Set aside until no longer brittle, about 15 minutes.
Combine the tamarind paste, hot water, and sugar, and mix to combine. Set aside.
Slice your tofu into slabs and roll in a kitchen towel, applying gentle pressure to remove some of the moisture. Unwrap and cut into cubes.
Heat a very large saute pan over medium high heat until very hot. Add the oil and let it get hot (10 seconds should be fine). Slide your tofu cubes into the oil and spread then into a single layer. Sprinkle them generously with salt and let them cook, undisturbed, for 3 – 4 minutes or until beginning to brown.
Toss or flip the tofu with a spatula to brown another side, again for 3 – 4 minutes. Scoop the partially browned tofu out into a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat slightly and add the shallots to the remaining oil. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until starting to brown, adding more oil of necessary. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so just until fragrant.
Scoot the shallots and garlic out around the perimeter of the pan and add your noodles, one handful at a time, to the center of the pan. Let some of the water drip off of each handful, but not all. Cook the noodles for about 5 minutes, mixing them around occasionally.
Once the noodles are beginning to get tangled and a little browned, pour in your tamarind mixture and season the dish with several shakes of fish sauce. Add back the tofu at this time, too, and begin to mix everything all together to coat thoroughly. Tongs work best for this.
Cook the Phad Thai for another 4-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the noodles are fully cooked. This will vary depending on your noodles and the heat. If the pan gets too dry but the noodles still aren’t soft enough, add a few tablespoons of water to help them along.
When cooked to your liking, divide the noodles and tofu among bowls and sprinkle generously with crushed peanuts and scallions or bean sprouts.