Much as I love it, I don’t make a lot of Thai food at home. But if this pad thai is any indication of how doable it is, then I really should expand my kitchen horizons a bit.
I’ve probably made this about a dozen times — each version slightly different than the ones before, based on what ingredients I could easily find. (In other words, no special trips to far flung Asian markets required.)
I used to make it with shrimp, but this summer dabbled with a tofu version that I liked just as well. The key is to include enough contrasting flavors and textures by way of acidity (lime), savory/umami (fish sauce), heat (red chili flakes), and crunch (peanuts, green onions) to avoid ending up with a big bowl of sweet (tamarind) noodles.
I go back and forth on pairings for pad thai. Sometimes, honestly, nothing beats a good cold beer. Something like a blond or pale ale has worked for me in the past. And I’ve been known to reach for a bottle of bubbly with very happy results. Same goes for a no-oak Viognier. But mostly I tend to gravitate to Riesling. Crisp, clean, bright, possibly the most food-friendly wine around. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed lately:
Balthasar Ress 2009 Riesling Spätlese Rheingau Schloss Reichartshausen ($22). A wow wine — fantastic now but will age for at least another decade. (So buy more than one!) Structured, layers of mineral, white peach, green apple, wet stone, lemon peel, white pepper spice. All folds together magnificently into a mile-long finish. Find it!
Jim Barry 2012 Riesling Clare Valley The Lodge Hill ($20). Luscious and smooth, with tropical mango and peach flavors supported with bright citrusy acidity. Spice and floral notes, too. Lovely stuff. Find it!
Pewsey Vale 2012 Riesling Eden Valley ($17). Another gorgeous Aussie Riesling. Delicate, aromatic mineral notes accent fresh lime and green apple flavors. Lots of depth, light herbal notes, would age. Excellent value. Find it!
Ansgar Clüsserath 2011 Riesling Mosel Vom Schiefer Trocken ($17). Dry, crisp, loads of slate notes accenting white peach and citrus. Classic aromas. Delicious. Great deal on a very good wine. Find it!
G.H. Von Mumm 2011 Riesling Rheingau Trocken 50º ($13). Positively tart, with bracing acidity. Green apple, lemon, dried apricot. Picks up a touch of smooth cream through the finish. Find it!
Recipe: Pad Thai with Tofu
Feel free to serve with bowls of extra scallions, peanuts and/or cilantro — I love all those texture contrasts and can totally get carried away with them at the table! And you can also easily substitute a pound of peeled and deveined shrimp for the tofu, if that’s more to your liking. Serves 4, generously.
1/2 pound dried thin, flat rice noodles
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons good quality Thai fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/4 cup safflower oil
4 shallots, minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced pickled ginger
14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, cubed
5 scallions, green parts and just a bit of the white, sliced on the diagonal
generous 1/2 cup of roasted, chopped peanuts
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
generous 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 limes, quartered
Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak for 15-20 minutes to soften, then drain thoroughly in a colander.
Meanwhile, bring the 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the tamarind concentrate, brown sugar, rice vinegar, fish sauce and dried red chili flakes, stirring to blend thoroughly. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Heat safflower oil in a wok over moderate heat. Add shallots and garlic and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Raise heat to high and add tofu, cook until firm, about 2 minutes. Remove tofu to a plate and reserve.
Add tamarind mixture to wok, along with the drained rice noodles, half the scallions and half the peanuts. Cook for about 4 minutes to allow the liquid to reduce substantially. Add back the tofu, along with the bean sprouts and cook for about a minute. Turn off heat. Add the rest of the scallions, peanuts and all of the cilantro and toss gently. Serve immediately with lime quarters.