I’ve always loved pad thai, but I never realized that fish sauce was a staple in Thai cooking until I met Alan. He’s allergic to fish. Actually my mom and one of my best friends is also allergic to fish. I thought, how unfair that these folks have to miss out on such a thrilling noodle dish. With that thought, I set out to find a recipe for pad thai that doesn’t involve fish sauce so that Alan and I could have a pad thai date night at home. Enter Martha Stewart’s Vegetable and Tofu Pad Thai recipe, which I tweaked a bit. On a weekend in Chattam, NY, I found some mushroom soy sauce at a market and thought it would add the depth of flavor that fish sauce usually provides, so I took a bottle home.
I tried this recipe with regular soy sauce as well, and it came out just fine. The mushroom soy sauce was as dark as molasses and as thick as maple syrup. It turned the noodles a deep brown color, which was a little unexpected. Next time I might use half soy sauce and half mushroom soy sauce to lighten up the hue. On pad thai date night, Alan and I chopped, sizzled, peeled, shredded and minced our way to noodle goodness. We ate a big bowl each and there was plenty to spare. It may not be as easy as calling your local Thai joint, but if you’re allergic to fish sauce or you’re just looking for a healthier version of this popular noodle dish, well, just get in the kitchen and make your own. Don't forget to grab a bottle of Thai beer to complete the meal.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Vegetable and Tofu Pad Thai recipe (http://www.marthastewart.com/872941/vegetable-and-tofu-pad-thai)
Makes 4-6 servings
2 pieces raw chicken breast, sliced thinly against the grain
8 ounces dried wide, flat rice noodles
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving (3 limes total)
4 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)
1 tablespoon chili sauce, like Sriracha
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
1 packed cup shredded kale
Coarse salt, as needed
2 tablespoons roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
2. In a large nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add in half of the chicken in an even layer, allowing the chicken to brown on one side. Once lightly browned, flip the chicken pieces and brown them on the other side until just cooked through. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean plate and continue until all the chicken has been cooked and transferred to the plate.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, soy sauce, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Set aside.
4. In the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, heat 1/2 teaspoon oil over medium-high, tilting to coat pan. Add the eggs, swirl to coat bottom until you have what looks like an egg crepe, and cook until just set, about 1 minute. Transfer the egg to a cutting board, loosely roll it up, and cut it crosswise into thin strips. Set it aside.
5. The water should be boiling now, so throw in the dried noodles and set a timer for the cooking time stated on the package. Have a colander ready for draining the noodles.
6. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and once hot, add in the carrots, garlic, and scallion whites, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes.
7. Add the lime-juice mixture and bring it to a simmer. Add the cooked noodles and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute.
8. Add the eggs, chicken and kale and gently toss to combine. Season to taste with salt or more soy sauce. If the noodles dry up, add a bit more vegetable oil to loosen them and cook one more minute.
9. Serve the pad thai topped with peanuts, cilantro, scallion greens and add some lime wedges on the side.
Top photo by Alan Foreman