Friday, May 27, 2011

Shrimp Pad Thai

I was intrigued by this recipe, calling as it does for ketchup as the base of a pad thai sauce (which typically includes ingredients such as tamarind paste and chile sauce).  But it sounded like fun, so I gave it a go.  For the ketchup, I recommend either Organicville (sweetened with agave nectar) or Annie's Naturals (with organic cane sugar), both certified vegan.  If you can't find wide rice noodles, try linguine instead.  For the rest of the recipe, read on.

  • 8 ounces wide rice stick noodles
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegan fish sauce*
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 pound Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
  • 8 ounces crumbled lite firm tofu
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (for color)
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 3/4 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts**
1. Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water; let stand about 12 minutes, until tender; drain.

2. Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, sugar, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a bowl; set aside.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and saute for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan.

4. Heat the remaining 4 teaspoons canola oil in the skillet.  Add the tofu to the skillet, along with the turmeric, and cook for about 30 seconds - the mixture should look like scrambled eggs.  Add the sprouts, green onions, and garlic; cook for 1 minute.  Add the rice noodles, ketchup mixture, and shrimp; cook for a final 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with the peanuts.

To round out the meal, I tossed together a quick spicy cucumber salad: peel, seed, and thinly slice 2 cups of cucumber.  Combine the cucumber in a bowl with 1 cup julienne-cut red bell pepper and 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion.  In a bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon vegan sugar, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Pour the dressing over the cucumber mixture and toss to combine. 

Finally, after all those flavors on the tongue, I highly recommend a small dish of lemon sorbet for dessert - try the lemon zest sorbet from Ciao Bella.

*For the full run down on your options for vegan fish sauce, plus my favorite home-made version, see post for Lion's Heat Meatballs in Spicy Coconut Sauce from February 2011.

**Vegan buyer beware: Something so simple as dry-roasted peanuts certainly shouldn't pose a threat to the conscientious vegan, right?  Alas, wrong.  Many versions have a whole host of ingredients that aren't vegan.  To my shock, the Planter's dry-roasted peanuts contain gelatin.  Other brands have sneaky things like dextrose (often not vegan in origin) and MSG (vegan, but not to my liking).  I actually did track down dry-roasted peanuts from Whole Foods which contained nothing other than peanuts and salt (phew!) but since this recipe called for unsalted peanuts, that went back on the shelf too.

Luckily, a savvy vegan can quickly dry-roast her own peanuts at home.  Buy raw shelled peanuts and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  They should be just starting to brown when you remove them from the oven, but be careful not to cook too long, as they will continue to cook once out of the oven.  Spread on paper towels to cool.  Use 2 tablespoons for this recipe, and set aside the rest for snacking later in the week.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 343 

Tasting Notes:
Forgive me purists, but I quite enjoyed this unorthodox version of pad thai.  If anything, I thought all the components of the sauce - ketchup included - could have been stronger.  The dish also certainly needed a little more crushed red pepper, or perhaps Thai chile sauce to perk up the heat.  I also might season the tofu, but liked the texture that it added.  The crunch from the peanuts was delicious, so don't leave them out.


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