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I’ve mentioned before how I feel about spaghetti squash. It doesn’t taste like pasta, but it’s delicious in the right application. I’ve had a squash in my fridge for about a week now, and I’d planned to make my usual peanut sauce recipe to go with it (see the link above). But, while grabbing some paper towels and other non-food items at the store today, I suddenly had an idea: What if I made pad Thai with that spaghetti squash?
So, in a flash I whipped out my smartphone and opened the How to Cook Everything app, basically a digital version of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything cookbook. (Full disclosure: I don’t own the book, only the app so I’m not exactly sure how it compares.) The app is only a few bucks in the app store and it’s like having a cooking coach in your back pocket at all times. I found the pad Thai recipe (vegetarian variation) and set about collecting ingredients.
Key among those ingredients was tofu, which I’d never cooked before although I’ve enjoyed it in miso soup, as a fried appetizer and yes, even in pad Thai. For some reason I thought tofu was finicky, delicate, difficult to work with. Turns out, it’s actually very simple to prepare (and I could hardly keep from snacking on the fried pieces while preparing the rest of the dish!). Here’s what you need to do before you start:
Cook the squash and prep the other ingredients while the tofu is resting.
I confess that I’m missing some key ingredients here. My grocery store didn’t have bean sprouts, but frankly I didn’t miss them because of the spaghetti squash’s similar texture! I also couldn’t find the peanuts (I was looking at the bags of chopped nuts in the baking aisle…it dawned on me afterward that they were probably with the snacks). To compensate for the lack of peanuts in the garnish, I added a tablespoon of peanut butter to the sauce.
Vegetarian Pad Thai
Adapted from Mark Bittman
- 7 oz extra firm tofu (half of a 14-oz package), pressed and cut into 2 × 1 × 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 2-pound spaghetti squash, cooked in microwave and strands removed (see method here)
- 3 tbsp canola or peanut oil
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 scallions or green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and trimmed (I left these out)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (or fish sauce)
- 2 tsp ketchup (or tamarind paste)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp peanut butter or 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- 1-2 small green Thai chiles, seeded and sliced (optional–I used a serrano)
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Press the tofu while you cook the squash in the microwave. Remove the strands. Make the sauce by combining the soy sauce, sugar, ketchup and peanut butter (if using). I added a little squirt of lime juice as well.
- Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat. When it’s hot, pour in the eggs. Cook, without stirring, until set. You’re aiming for a crepe-like appearance. Remove the egg to a cutting board, cool and cut into 1/2-inch strips.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat over medium to medium-high heat until hot. Add the tofu, squeezing each piece dry with paper towels just before you add it to the pan to reduce spattering. Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, working in batches if necessary. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
- When the tofu is done, saute the garlic, green onions and half the bean sprouts for 2-3 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and discard the remaining oil in the pan.
- Add the spaghetti squash, egg strands and sauce to the pan. Cook and stir until hot and combined. Add the cooked tofu and vegetables and toss together.
- Serve pad Thai topped with ground peanuts, remaining bean sprouts, lime and chopped chile, as desired.
It wasn’t exactly the pad Thai from my favorite Thai joint (the Mango Tree, if you’re wondering), but it was a pretty darn good effort. The spaghetti squash is a great substitute for the rice noodles, with fewer carbs and calories but you still get to twirl something around your fork.
I would make a few changes to this recipe if I make it again (I probably will). The ground peanuts on top would have added the missing texture from the dish. The creamy peanut butter added some peanut taste, but the crunch was lacking. And even though Mark recommends soy sauce for the vegetarian version, I think the fish sauce would produced a more authentic taste (and I’m not a vegetarian, so the fish part doesn’t concern me). Oh yeah, and more chile on top!