She then challenged me to come up with a healthier version of Pad Thai. Admittedly, Pad Thai has been on my "list" for awhile but I hadn't yet gotten around to making it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Challenge accepted, Kimmy!
I decided to adapt a recipe I received from frequent e is for eat guest blogger, Jullie Anne of Mangoes and Palm Trees ages ago. I had spotted brown rice pad thai noodles in the store recently, so I knew that would be part of this recipe remake. Kimmy also informed me that sodium intake is something she keeps an eye on for her little one. Unfortunately, because of the fish sauce, this has about 750 mg of sodium per serving. If you omit the fish sauce, this number will drop to just 90 mg per serving.
Let's talk ingredients for a minute. To make this a little healthier, I found these brown rice Pad Thai noodles at Whole Foods made by Annie Chun's. Remember, just because they are brown rice doesn't mean they are calorie free; they are just healthier because they are whole grain. This entire box is 800 calories, so portion control is huge here. I also substituted an egg white in place of a whole egg (still keeping one whole egg to stay true to the original taste). This recipe will make 4 small portions at about 380 calories each.
Prepare rice stick noodles according to package directions for stir fry. (Usually this entails soaking in hot water). This particular box only required about 10-12 minutes of soaking, though some can take up to an hour. Drain and set aside.
Now for the sauce. There are a couple of things that will really give you that restaurant-quality taste. Fish sauce is a must for me because of the umami quality, but because it is made from anchovies, it's very high in sodium (like, crazy high as I mentioned above). I did reduce the amount slightly, but parents like Kimmy (or those watching sodium intake) might consider leaving this out or cutting down the quantity. (If you omit this, please let me know how it turns out). Thai Kitchen makes a gluten free product, which I found at Whole Foods.
Tamarind paste will give it the signature sour taste. When I made my Xacuti, I bought tamarind paste at an Indian grocery store, but this time I was delighted to find it at Whole Foods. If you can't find Tamarind, you can try increasing the amount of fresh lime juice or adding a touch of rice vinegar, or perhaps pomegranate molasses. A caution though: it won't have quite the same taste as with the tamarind.
Finally... the sweet part of the dish. This comes from pure coconut palm sugar. Usually this is sold in blocks, and you simply need to chop it up or break it down with a mortar and pestle. However, when I opened up the container, it was actually sort of a liquidy product, which worked out great for the sauce. (I also bought this at Whole Foods). This is also less processed than normal sugar, which is a plus. It has a richer and more complex taste than traditional brown sugar, but if you can't find palm sugar, you can substitute brown sugar or muscovado sugar.
Once you have all your ingredients prepped, this recipe goes super fast. In a large wok over medium-high heat, sauté garlic & shallots in 1 tablespoon oil. Most recipes call for vegetable oil, but I like to substitute Safflower, coconut or peanut oil in those instances. (Just make sure you choose one with a high smoke point... i.e. NOT olive oil). Generally, you would use up to 1/4 of a cup of oil total for this recipe... but those calories add up quickly! I cut this amount in half to save about 240 calories.
Add shrimp, season with salt & pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. (BTW... you can also use chicken sliced against the grain if you don't like shrimp or tofu for a veggie version). Once the shrimp are done (pink and opaque), remove from the wok and set aside. (Leave any oil residue to cook the eggs). If needed, spray wok with non-stick cooking spray and scramble eggs. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil, and add chiles (if using) and 1" pieces of green onions. Saute for about a minute, until aromatic. Add noodles to the wok, then pour the sauce mixture over the noodles, and mix lightly. Add the shrimp & eggs back into the wok to blend everything together. Cook until the noodles are tender (about 3-5 minutes). Taste the Pad Thai, and adjust seasonings (such as extra salt, pepper, or sugar).
**Note: If you are cooking for a crowd, make your pad thai in batches, otherwise you will overcrowd the wok with too many ingredients. A good rule of thumb: don't cook more than one 8-ounce box of noodles at a time.
To serve, garnish with lime wedges, fresh bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, cilantro and sliced green onions. If you like it extra spicy, sprinkle with red pepper flakes or dried red chilis that have been hand crushed. Enjoy!
Pad Thai with Brown Rice Noodles
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Keywords: stir-fry entree gluten-free shrimp shallot fish sauce peanut Thai Asian
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 8-ounce package brown rice stick noodles
- 2 tablespoons of oil with a high smoke point (Safflower, coconut or peanut), divided use
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 shallots, minced
- 12-16 large shrimp, peeled & deveined
- 1 egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 green onions, cut in 1" pieces
- 1-2 fresh Thai chile peppers, minced (optional)
- sauce (see recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons Tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (Thai kitchen for gluten free)
- ¼ cup pure palm sugar (broken down/chopped)
- dash of chile sauce or paste or pinch of pepper flakes (optional, for heat)
- 2 tablespoons peanuts, finely chopped
- fresh cilantro
- lime wedges
- fresh bean sprouts
- red pepper flakes or crushed dried red chilis
- 1 green onion, sliced
- Prepare rice stick noodles according to package directions for stir fry. (Usually this entails soaking in hot water). Drain and set aside.
- In a wok over medium-high heat, sauté garlic & shallots in 1 tablespoon oil.
- Add shrimp, season with salt & pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Once the shrimp are done (pink and opaque), remove from the wok and set aside. (Leave any oil residue to cook the eggs).
- If needed, spray wok with non-stick cooking spray and scramble eggs. Remove from the wok and set aside.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil, and add chiles (if using) and green onions. Saute for about a minute, until aromatic.
- Add noodles to the wok, then pour the sauce mixture over the noodles, and mix lightly.
- Add the shrimp & eggs back into the wok to blend everything together. Cook until the noodles are tender (about 3-5 minutes).
- Taste the Pad Thai, and adjust seasonings (such as extra salt, pepper, or sugar).
- When serving, garnish with lime wedges, fresh bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, cilantro and sliced green onions. For extra heat, sprinkle with crushed red pepper.
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