Vegan Pad Thai–A Thanksgiving Main Dish Even a Turkey Could Love

Yield: 6-8 servings

The main course of this year’s Thai-inspired Thanksgiving repast, this version of Pad Thai is quick, easy and vitamin-infused, thanks to baby bok choy.

8 ounces Pad Thai rice noodles (thin, flat linguini-like noodles)
3/4 tablespoon tamarind paste (available at Asian markets)
1/4 cup hot water
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (to taste)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3-4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
1 shallot or 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 “heads” of baby bok choy, or other Chinese cabbage, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons vegetable stock
1/2 cup firm tofu, crumbled (you may use soft tofu, it just breaks down to a greater degree)
2 cups bean sprouts

2 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup ground or finely chopped peanuts
lime wedges for serving

Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from heat. Soak noodles in the hot water for 6-10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Tip: Noodles are ready to drain when they are soft enough to eat, but still firm and a little bit “crunchy”. The noodles will finish cooking when they are fried.

Dissolve the tamarind paste in the hot water. Add the next four ingredients and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add as much or as little chili sauce as you prefer, but don’t skimp on the sugar (you need it to balance the sourness of the tarmaind). Reserve.

Place wok (or large frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil plus the garlic and shallot. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance. Add the bok choy plus the stock. Stir-fry 2 minutes, or until bok choy is bright green and slightly softened. Push ingredients aside and add 1/2 tablespoon more oil to the center of the wok/pan. Add the tofu and stir-fry briefly to scramble it. Push tofu aside and add a little more oil to the middle of the wok/pan. Now add the drained noodles and 1/3 of the sauce. Stir-fry everything together for 1 minute using 2 utensils and a tossing motion (like tossing a salad). Add a little more sauce and continue stir-frying in the same way for 1-2 more minutes, or until the noodles begin to soften and become sticky. Reduce heat to medium if noodles begin to stick and burn. Add the bean sprouts plus the remaining sauce. Stir-fry to incorporate everything together for 1-3 more minutes, or until noodles are done. Noodles are cooked to perfection when they are soft but still deliciously chewy and a little bit sticky. Remove from heat and taste-test, adding more vegan fish sauce or soy sauce if desired for more salt/flavor.

To serve, scoop noodles onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with the green onion, cilantro, and ground nuts. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side. Serve immediately. (Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side for those who likes their noodles extra spicy).


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Vegan Carrot-Cucumber-Cashew Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings

This soup is so tasty that I will certainly make it even after I can eat solid food. Created for my post-oral surgery diet, it helps me feel less deprived because it contains much of the nutritious deliciousness that makes me crave Thai food.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, peeled and slivered
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 generous cups baby carrots
3/4 pound seedless cucumbers (3 very small cucumbers)
1 cup cashew pieces and halves
1-14.5 ounce can coconut milk
1 scant tablespoon vegan fish sauce
1/4 cup very lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup very lightly packed fresh Thai basil leaves
Coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
zest of one lime

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes or until softened and just starting to turn golden. Meanwhile, steam carrots just until tender. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and drain. Place all ingredients except lime zest in the bowl of a food processor and puree until almost smooth, but flecks of texture and color remain. You may want to puree in two batches to prevent overflow. Transfer to a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, stir in zest, and heat. Serve warm.

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Vegan Thai Coconut Milk Rice with Spicy Carrots and Green Peas

Yield: 4 servings (to truly serve 4, this dish needs something like a simple cucumber salad to round it out)

Just home from a week long Spring Break vacation, I challenged myself tonight to create a satisfying and healthy dinner using only ingredients I had on hand. (Read: I was too worn out from a day of travel to get enthusiastic about going to the grocery store not even a half-mile away.) Poking around in the pantry and ferreting around in the fridge and freezer revealed plenty of wholesome ingredients for a Thai-inspired meal. Following is the tasty result.

1 cup water
1-14 ounce can lite coconut milk
1 cup Jasmine rice
1-5 inch stalk of lemon grass (tough green stalk removed), cut into 4 pieces
2 Kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
2 tablespoons minced fresh or fresh-frozen Thai basil (mine was the latter)
1 tablespoon minced fresh or fresh-frozen mint (again, mine was the latter)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (it will usually say “vegetarian” on the label)
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste

Spicy Carrots and Green Peas:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons green curry paste (it’s fiery, so start with 1)
1 generous pinch ground cumin
1 generous pinch ground coriander
1 cup baby carrots, cut on the diagonal into 3-4 pieces each
3/4 cup water
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce
salt to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts
4 sprigs Thai basil or mint

In a medium saucepan, bring water and coconut milk to a simmer. Stir in rice and next six ingredients and cook loosely covered over medium-low heat, stirring fairly frequently, until rice is tender and creamy, approximately 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and garlic powder. Remove from heat. At this point, it is important to have vegetables prepared so that the meal can be served immediately, lest the rice become gummy.

So, as soon as rice begins to cook, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, curry paste, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring constantly, about a minute until mixture comes together. Stir in carrots just until coated with curry mixture. Then stir in 1/2 cup of the water and cook carrots a few minutes or until crunchy-tender. Stir in peas, remaining 1/4 cup water and fish sauce, and cook for a few more minutes until peas are heated through, but still bright green.

Immediately, divide rice among four shallow bowls and top with one-fourth of the vegetables. Garnish each serving with about a tablespoon of chopped peanuts and an optional sprig of fresh Thai basil or mint.

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