Pad thai made with root vegetables and courgette
Pad thai is one of the most popular Thai street food dishes. Its full name, kway teow pad thai, apparently means “stir-fried rice noodles, Thai style”. These noodles are usually prepared with shrimps, tofu, omelette or meat and dressed with a sweet and sour soy and lime sauce.
Restaurants, street food vendors and well-known cookery writers all have their own version of this dish and in your own kitchen, too, it’s a versatile base that can be adjusted to taste. For example, by seriously upping the vegetable content.
The version I give here, has a vegetable basis and has been a favourite in our house for a while now. I think the use of vegetable ribbons as a replacement for pasta is such a bright idea in general and with the sharp and tasty dressing in this dish it works wonders. Hence: pad thai, Western style and vegetarian.
The lime dressing goes very well with sweet, but also with more bitter tasting vegetables. In this version I use veg with a rather mild flavour, adding beansprouts for bitterness, which everyone can add to their bowl to their own liking (lots and lots in mine, please!). If you prefer more pronounced flavours, the possibilities in this dish are ample. The Flemish chef Philippe van den Bulck, who cooks wonderful things with vegetables, makes a pad thai based on chicory; you can spice things up using sliced chillies, you can replace the courgette with peppery daikon radish, or simply add small radishes or other greens according to your preference.
The omelette and nuts provide different textures and turn the dish into a balanced meal. This way, eating your daily amount of different veg becomes a real treat. After finishing this bowl you’ll feel light, satisfied and utterly comforted.
If you prefer adding some carbohydrates, you can serve it with crusty bread. All these adjustments, keeping only the dressing and the name, have taken the dish far from its Asian origin. But it’s simply delicious, so give it a try!
Pad thai made with root vegetables and courgette – serves 4
- 4 large carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 2 courgettes
- a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbs. tamarind paste
- 2 tbs. honey
- 2 tbs. soy sauce
- 4 tbs. sunflower oil
- 4 spring onions, sliced
- 300 g beansprouts
- 5 eggs
- 4 tbs. unsalted peanuts
- fresh coriander leaves to taste
Peel the carrots and the parsnips and trim off the ends of the courgettes. Halve the vegetables and cut them lengthways into thin strips. Cover them with moist kitchen paper until ready to use.
In a small saucepan, gently heat the lime juice with the tamarind, honey and soy sauce, until the mixture is smooth and thin. Add the lime zest and set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan until very hot. Stir-fry the strips of parsnips until just tender, then lift on to a plate.
Heat a new spoon of oil and cook the ginger slices. Add the carrot ribbons and stir-fry them until al dente. Lift on to a plate and remove the ginger.
Turn down the heat, pour a next spoonful of oil in the pan and cook the garlic slices for a few minutes to flavour the oil. Remove the garlic, turn up the heat and stir-fry the courgette ribbons. You might need to do this in two batches.
When the courgette is tender, add the carrot and parsnip strips. Stir through three tablespoons of the sauce, briefly reheat the veg, then divide them over four bowls.
Heat the remaining oil, whisk the eggs and stir-fry them into pieces of omelette.
Top the veg with the pieces of omelette, spring onions, beansprouts, peanuts and coriander. Serve the remaining sauce alongside, to add to taste.