When I first started dealing with my health problems, I quickly realized that eating outside of the house was extremely challenging. Because I was experiencing sensitivities (read: incredibly uncomfortable negative reactions) to lots of foods, I had to make sure I approved every ingredient that made it to my fork.
To avoid the risk, and to keep from being the most hated, high maintenance restaurant-goer on Earth (that title holds its own set of dangers), I started cooking everything at home, from scratch.
This was tough, at first, but I soon found that it felt really empowering to not rely on anyone else for my own nourishment. All the chopping really sends me to a good place, and the whole process makes the experience of eating that much more rewarding.
But sometimes I do miss eating out–especially at some of my favorite Asian restaurants–where you get to try things with amazing flavors that you didn’t know even existed. The other day I was reminiscing on some of those elusive flavors, and I got set on recreating a long-time favorite, with a little twist. That is where the idea for this cabbage noodle pad Thai was born.
To me, pad Thai is the ultimate in international comfort food. It’s traditionally made with rice noodles, but I decided to swap them out for some shredded cabbage instead. It still has all of the bold flavors I love, but it doesn’t leave me feeling like I need to crawl into a cocoon afterwards.
The only two ingredients that you might not already have in your kitchen are the tamarind paste, and the fish sauce–both of which can be found at any international market.
Going to one of these stores is an adventure all on its own, and I usually lose track of time winding my way through the aisles, entranced by the thousands of ingredients I have no clue about. It’s good fun, and I’d highly recommend getting lost in one of these markets as soon as you can.
Also, if you’re starting to cook at home more and want to amp up the flavors of your Asian cooking, fish sauce is your ticket (I look for one without sugar).
You really don’t even miss the noodles in this cabbage noodle pad Thai, because once the cabbage cooks down it gets soft and slippery and very noodle-like. Noodles are usually just a flavor vehicle, anyway.
There are so many flavors, colors, and textures going on inside of this dish, and that really makes my favorite kinds of food. Interesting food will also keep your taste buds excited, and will leave you satisfied with less. Sometimes we end up overeating simply because our plate is filled with bland food, and eating more is an attempt to satisfy our senses.
I’m constantly experimenting with new flavors and taking risks in the kitchen. It doesn’t always turn out just the way I planned, but it is how I’ve created some of my favorite meals.
There’s nothing like something brand new and out of your comfort zone to shake you out of a food rut.
And in my case, that is adding some new twists to a classic. You can toss in some chicken if you’re not into seafood, but I really love my pad Thai with some wild caught shrimp.
Creating your own meals at home lets you control the ingredients that enter your body, and guarantees that you’re making the best food choices that you can.
Adapted from Alton Brown.
- 2 oz or about 2 tbs tamarind paste
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 4 tbs coconut sugar
- 3 tbs fish sauce
- 1 tbs rice wine vinegar
- 2 small-medium bell pepper, julienned
- 2 medium carrots, julienned
- 8 scallions, chopped (white and green parts divided)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 medium sized head cabbage, sliced into "noodles"
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 lb wild caught shrimp
- sesame oil, or coconut oil
- salt and pepper
- crushed peanuts
- bean sprouts
- crushed red pepper
- Add tamarind paste and boiling water to a bowl. Allow to sit and soften while you prepare vegetables and peel shrimp.
- Press the tamarind paste through a fine mesh strainer, scraping with a spatula or back of spoon. Discard remaining fibers.
- To strained tamarind paste add coconut sugar, vinegar, and fish sauce. Stir to dissolve coconut sugar.
- Heat a wok or large pan to high heat and add a bit of oil. Season peeled shrimp with salt and pepper and add to wok, cooking just until opaque. Remove from pan and reserve.
- Add a little more oil, and add white parts of scallions and minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds and add carrots, grated ginger, and a pinch of salt. Cook for several minutes and add bell peppers, cabbage, sauce and green part of scallions. (add half of the bean sprouts now, if using) Stir frequently and cook until vegetables begin to soften, 8-10 minutes.
- Slide vegetables to one side of wok or pan and add beaten eggs. Let set for a minute and then scramble, incorporating into the vegetables. Add cooked shrimp and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish and serve with peanuts, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and crushed red pepper.
And it makes dinner taste that much better.
Don't let me do all the talking! Let me know what you think in the comments.