In 2011, I traveled to Thailand and my true love affair with Thai cuisine began. The explosion of flavors was unlike any Thai food I had experienced in the States. I couldn’t leave “The Land of Smiles” without uncovering the mysteries of those beautiful bright flavors–which prompted a bike ride to a little farm in the northern countryside to take a cooking class from a Thai chef. My friend Kristen & I experienced cooking Thai cuisine for the first time with local ingredients. Thai food is so satisfying because it awakens a symphony of flavor. Spicy, salty, sour and sweet, Thai cooks are masters of balancing the palate. No other dish showcases that magic like Pad Thai.
Flash forward to 2016 and that adventure still finds its way into my kitchen. As a home cook and happa, I like to experiment with Asian cuisine but with a California twist. This is not surprising since I grew up with a Korean mother who would sneak rice and kimchi onto our dinner table to accompany any international cuisine from Italian pasta to Czech goulash.
This Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai became an experiment in combining a traditional soul-nourishing dish with a healthy, gluten-free & carb-free alternative. It’s an explosion of flavor that will make you want to book your ticket to Thailand tonight.
Most Asian markets and some regular grocery stores carry many of these specialty items, but we are lucky in Los Angeles because our beloved Thai Town is fully stocked with so many Thai markets. My favorite grocer is Bangkok Market on Melrose Avenue. The mom & pop feel of the place transports me back to Chiang Mai. Nothing makes Thai food sing like fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.
ZUCCHINI NOODLE PAD THAI
- 4-5 Zucchini squash (depending on size)
- ½ cup Bean Sprouts
- 1 Carrot
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
- 6 Mushrooms
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Lime
- 3 cloves of Garlic
- 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves
- 1 tall stalk of Lemongrass
- 1 inch knob of Ginger Root
- 1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
- 1 tsp. Tamari Soy Sauce (Gluten-Free)
- 1 tsp. Almond Butter or Peanut Butter
- 1 tsp. Tamarind Paste
- ¼ tsp. Shrimp Paste
- 1 tsp. Honey (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
- Pinch of Red Pepper
- 1 tsp. Fish Sauce
Pad Thai Toppings
1/2 cup minced Herb Mix: Thai Basil, Cilantro, Mint
Roasted Peanuts (to taste)
With a knife, cut off the top and bottom of the Lemongrass stalk. With the butt of the knife or a meat tenderizer, pound the stalk flat and then mince.
Mince the fresh kaffir lime leaf. Mince the garlic cloves and fine grate the ginger root. Set all aside individually.
Grate the carrot. De-seed and slice the red bell pepper into small strips. Set all aside.
With a peeler, peel strips of zucchini length-wise, rotating around the core until you are down to the “core” housing the seeds. Discard the middle seeded area (this core is bitter). Set “noodles” aside.
TIP: I have a spiralizer, but I tend to like the texture of the “fettuccini” flat noodles for this dish, so that the zucchini retain more texture as they cook down.
Slice the mushrooms into chunks. Set aside. Heat a wok on the stovetop to medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of sesame oil. Move the wok around to let the oil cover the surface of the pan, then add a pinch of each of the following: grated ginger, minced lemongrass & minced garlic. Stir with a spatula. Add the chopped mushrooms. Allow to cook. As they are beginning to brown, add a dash of water (2-3 Tbsp) just to help them steam, and to deglaze the pan.
TIP: In Thailand, the food is not greasy. When cooking in a wok, add water or broth versus more oil when you need to keep ingredients from sticking. If you don’t have a wok, you can cook everything in a skillet, just make sure to cook the ingredients individually and remove them from heat.
Add 1 tsp of Tamari Soy Sauce. When the mushrooms are brown, push them to the side wall of the wok. Add ½ Tbsp of coconut oil to the wok. Crack two eggs into the center of the wok. Scramble the eggs using the spatula. When both the mushrooms and eggs are cooked to your preference, remove them from the heat and set aside.
TIP: Reduce heat. Make sure the temperature of the wok is not too hot so that you don’t burn the sauce.
In the wok, add ½ Tbsp of coconut oil, the remainder of the minced garlic, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger. **Make sure to stir continuously to not burn the ingredients.** Add the fish sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, a pinch of red pepper and 1 tsp of almond butter. Add the tamarind paste and shrimp paste. Add honey (optional to preference), a little bit of water (2-3 Tbsp) and the juice from ½ a lime. Stir until the almond butter and pastes are smooth and incorporated.
Keep stirring so that all ingredients are mixed together. When the sauce is bubbling, stir in the zucchini “noodles” making sure the sauce is evenly distributed. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Very quickly, you will see the zucchini ribbons “curl up”. Cook them until “al dente”. Do not overcook.
Add in the cooked mushroom and eggs. Stir and remove from heat. Stir in the grated carrot, red bell pepper and bean sprouts if you are serving right away.
TIP: You want the raw ingredients to stay crisp so that they contrast with the texture of the noodles. If you are not serving the Pad Thai right away, wait to add the raw vegetables at the last moment.
De-stem and chop the leaves of the Thai basil, cilantro and mint in equal parts to create ½ cup of herb mix. Coarse chop the roasted peanuts.
Plate the Zucchini Pad Thai, sprinkle with the herb mix and peanuts and dress the plate with a lime wedge. This is to be squeezed over the top before eating. Offer Sriracha as an additional option to add a little heat to the dish for those guests who delight in some spice.
BON APPÉTIT! Enjoy this healthy taste of Thailand!
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Words & Recipe by Sarah Prikryl // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
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