Easy breezy pad thai

I have always had a love-hate relationship with pad thai.

My first taste of pad thai was at a Thai restaurant in San Diego. An evening out on a student budget used to be a huge treat then! A group of us visited a decently good bus accessible Thai place we used to pass en-route to university. As it was our very first Thai experience, we asked the waitress to order whatever she likes within budget and she ordered this extremely tasty spicy pad thai followed by coconut ice-cream! I absolutely loved the flat rice noodles drenched in a tangy, hot and sweet sauce with crunchy peanuts on top.

Over the time though I realized that a good pad thai is hard to come by. Many times either the sauce is too strong or the whole dish is oily.. After a few unfortunate encounters with pad thai I switched my go-to Thai dish from pad thai to a green curry which probabilistically is always decent (yes, I calculate probabilities when ordering food).

But the cravings for a that San Diego pad thai was always there! Then recently I came across this Mark Bittman's minimalist column urging people to think about pad thai as a make-at-home option and I wondered why I never thought about making pad thai at home. The recipe seemed easy enough, was uber-flexible and luckily I had all the ingredients at hand.
I made this dish on a weekday evening. It came together fairly quickly. You make the sauce (which is just putting things together in a bowl), soak the noodles in hot water and meanwhile stir fry the ingredients and bring everything together in a wok. Easy breezy!

The pad thai was extremely tasty. We enjoyed it with a hot cup of peach flavored dragonfruit tree. All-in-all a pad thai dinner well-served at last!

Source: adapted from here
makes 3 medium servings or 4 small servings
8ounces flat rice noodles

Sauce (adjust according to taste):
4Tbsp tamarind paste (taste your tamarind paste; every one is different. If its very tart, use less to begin with and then add more as you go. For 8ounces noodles, I needed 4Tbsp Joy tamarind concentrate)
3Tbsp rice wine vinegar
4Tbsp sugar
3Tbsp fish sauce
3/4C warm water

2 cloves of garlic - minced
14oz extra firm tofu
4 bok choy or some chopped chinese cabbage
1 egg (optional)
peanut or canola oil

handful of roasted chopped peanuts
chopped scallions
bean sprouts
lime or orange wedges
crushed red pepper
** Fish sauce is not vegetarian. It has fermented anchovies. You can get a fake 'fish' sauce which is vegetarian or just omit that ingredient and adjust the other flavors accordingly.
** Egg is optional.
** Tofu can be easily replaced with shrimp or any other protein if you prefer. 

Prepare the sauce:
Mix all the sauce ingredients. Taste. It should not be very tangy or very sweet. Adjust the ingredients per taste.

Prepare the noodles:
Pour warm water over the dried noodles in a large bowl. Cover and let stand for 10mins or so until the noodles are cooked through.

Prepare the stir-fry:
Chop tofu and bok-choy into small byte sized pieces. In a wok or a large non-stick pan, heat some oil on high heat. When the oil is very hot, add tofu pieces. Fry on each side for a few minutes until the tofu skins are crispy. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if desired. Add garlic and bok-choy and stir fry for a few minutes on high heat. Add the egg and scramble for a few minutes.

Put everything together:
Add the noodles and the sauce back to the pan. Mix well; add some salt and cook for a few minutes until the noodles absorb most of the sauce (do not overcook).

Remove from heat. Add tofu and the garnish ingredients. Serve hot with your choice of hot tea.

Hope you all had a great weekend and a good week ahead!