Ah, it's always a little bit disappointing to find out the recipe you believe you've been perfecting for months, eating twice a week and Instagramming your little heart out over actually bears no resemblance what so ever to the name you're giving it.
Pad Thai has some pretty fascinating origins in Thai history, which I was reading through last night along with the idea in the back of my mind to feature a semi-authentic Pad Thai recipe here. But none of the ingredients actually match with the Pad Thai leftovers currently sat in my fridge. So this recipe is by no means anywhere in the same ball park as an authentic Pad Thai- it doesn't even use the right noodles. What it DOES show, is how you can make a recipe your own, suit your own tastes, and change it every day of the week to help with using leftover ingredients, ensuring you're getting protein into a meal or two (Hi Mum!) and definitely helping with your 5-or-whatever-a-day count. Is this the real deal? No, but it's MY DEAL. And hopefully yours. And I love recipes that evolve over time, whether you have to give them a new name or not.
I got on a Pad Thai kick after my friends over at Terrible Movement, Jack and Tersha, cooked me a crazy delicious vegan version over at their house earlier in the year. I just love that combination of lime juice, peanuts and coriander, and the fact it's filling but not in a knock-you-out way. So with their template in mind, I started making my own, and exchanging a few ingredients here and there as to what I had in, until it became The Thing That Isn't Pad Thai (TTTIPT) that we have today.
If you'd like to make a more Pad Thai version of Pad Thai, this is a great reference point (I like strict people). The pros of the one I make is the gorgeous clingy lime and coriander juice you get mixed in with the oil of the peanuts that have been blended, a vehicle for eating udon noodles and an excuse to use up ends of cabbage, a forlorn carrot or some over-eager bean sprouts. You can have this made in about half an hour, it reheats really well and is pretty cheap to make, which has also earnt it the prestigious Vegan Staple Recipe accolade here at Guac and Roll. With January and the ensuing Veganuary in mind, I think this could be a good plateful to get to know.
The Thing That Isn't Pad Thai
Makes four portions
1 white onion, chopped small
Rapeseed or sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped small
2 red or green chillies, chopped small
Juice of 1 lime
1 inch grated ginger
2 large carrots, cut into thin strips
2 handfuls of shredded cabbage, spinach, kale, chard, spring greens, pak choi, or another leafy vegetable you'd like to bulk this out with
2 handfuls of bean sprouts if available
1 packet of stir fry-style sauce (something with soy sauce, ginger and chillies will suit this)
4 servings of udon noodles
2 spring onions, chopped
2 handfuls of peanuts, chopped small
1 large handful of coriander, chopped
Also suitable: peppers cut into strips, broccoli, mushrooms
It's much easier to make this recipe with everything chopped and prepared, so try and resist the temptation to begin without having everything ready to go, as this should be a stress-free recipe to make!
In a large pan or wok, heat the onion on a low flame for about 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften, then add in the garlic and chillies. Heat for another few minutes until you can smell it all cooking, then pour in about 1 tbsp of soy sauce, the ginger and lime juice, ensuring nothing can burn with a nice low temperature.
Now add in the vegetables in order of what will take the longest to cook- if you're using carrots or broccoli it will probably be these. Turn up the heat, and make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan by keeping it moving with a pan spatula (made up term) or similar utensil. No burnt bits!
Once you've added the bean sprouts, boil a kettle of water and heat your udon noodles in a separate pan for about 1 minute, just until they soften slightly. Drain, then add them to the Pad Thai pan, and combine with the mix so they just finish cooking in the all of the great flavour you've created.
Serve with the chopped spring onions, crushed peanuts, another squeeze of lime, the coriander and a whole lot of appreciation for totally lost-in-translation cooking.