I keep getting asked what I’m doing with all my free time now that I’m done my degree. In a word: sleeping.
Some things are inevitable. Death, taxes, and an immune system crash the second you finish something important. And so it was. I defended my thesis last Thursday, flew to London on Friday for a weekend of fun and food, and by the time I got back on Sunday night I knew I was crashing.
I’m more or less over it now, but for the past week I did pretty much nothing but sleep, slurp down quick and spicy soup, and binge watch OITNB. I still feel deeply, deeply tired, but I suppose that may be a residual effect from juggling full time work and a full time MSc for the better part of a year.
As it happened (and probably luckily) my immune crash happened while Paul was traveling for work, and so I was stuck feeding myself (cue the violins). You’ve seen my meal plans. You know I barely cook during the week. If I’m going to cook on a weeknight, on a weeknight when I’m sick no less, it has to be something fast, easy, and tasty. This no-noodle pad Thai stir fry might look intimidating, but I assure you if I pulled it off on an under-the-weather Tuesday night, you can too.
I’ve been wanting to post a Pad Thai-ish dish for a while but I was struggling with what to do about the noodles. I wanted something more nutritious than the standard white rice noodles, but also something that would be easy for you to find. I contemplated brown rice noodles, buckwheat noodles, and kelp noodles when it struck me – SCREW THE NOODLES!
I replaced the noodles with ribbons of zucchini and carrot, and before you roll your eyes or click away, know that a) I did these ‘noodles’ with a regular vegetable peeler, and b) it took no more than 10 minutes. Although I do have a spiralizer, a mandoline with a julienne blade, and a julienne peeler, I wanted to use something I assume most of you already have on hand. The vegetable peeler worked just fine. So fine in fact that it further cemented the idea that I should biff my (top of the line and only used twice) spiralizer because it’s just taking up valuable space in my small kitchen.
There is a fair amount of chopping to get out of the way, but all told prepping everything before starting to cook took 30 minutes (I set a timer) and the actual cooking time took no more than 10 minutes. That’s a total of 40 minutes to get a hot, tasty, and nutritious meal on the table. I believe you could do a good amount of the prep in advance to get this meal on the table even faster, although I have not tested this.
No-noodle Pad Thai stir fry is a great meal for this time of year because it’s nice and light, and there is something about eating spicy food when it’s hot out. It’s fast enough for a weeknight meal but tasty enough for a weekend dinner party, and I tell ya, it’s soul satisfying.
What you’re eating here is a whole mess of vegetables! We can’t talk about them all so how about we focus on those bean sprouts? Mung bean sprouts are the nutty, crisp, edible sprout of the mung bean seed. They are rich in fiber, B-vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Mung bean sprouts are also a source of iron, and a cup of these sprouts contains about 15% of the recommended daily intake of folate. Note! Sprouts are known to carry bacteria so it is important they are well-washed before they are eaten. The heat in a recipe like this one will destroy the bacteria so they’re totally safe, but pregnant women, small children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system should be wary of eating raw sprouts.
Three years ago: Banana Hazelnut Pancakes
no-noodle pad Thai stir-fry
- 1 medium zucchini
- 3 large carrots
- 250 g firm tofu cubed
- 2 - 4 scallions thinly sliced (about 1 cup sliced)
- 2 - 3 cups bean sprouts well rinsed
- 1 cup sugar snap peas trimmed and halved
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 Thai red chile
- 4 Tbsp canola oil for frying
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or liquid aminos I use Braggs
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp honey or other liquid sweetener
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lime
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds or peanuts
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Start by prepping all of the ingredients:
- Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, then using a vegetable peeler, peel long ribbons down the length of the zucchini and onto a waiting plate. Stop peeling when you get to the seedy core in the middle as it will become too difficult to peel (toss it in the freezer for soups, save to add to a smoothie, or just eat it as a cook's snack!).
- Peel the carrots and then continue peeling long ribbons of carrot onto a waiting plate. Stop peeling when you get to the core or when it becomes too difficult to continue (save the core! toss it in the freezer for soups, save to add to a smoothie, or just eat it as a cook's snack!)
- Dice the tofu into 1.5cm / 0.5 inch cubes.
- Thinly slice the scallions and place into a bowl.
- Rinse the bean sprouts thoroughly, drain, and set aside.
- Rinse the sugar snap peas, trim the ends, cut in half, and place into a waiting bowl.
- Crush the garlic (I use a garlic crusher), and finely mince the chile. Place these in a small dish and set aside.
- Now you can get the sauce ready:
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy, water, tomato paste, rice vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Now you're ready to cook!
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp canola oil, and then the tofu cubes. Fry until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally. While they are frying, line a plate with paper towels. When the tofu is nice and golden, slide it out of the pan and onto the waiting plate.
- Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil to the same pan. Add the garlic and chile and fry for about 1 minute, until the garlic starts to just slightly brown. Quickly add the scallions, bean sprouts, and snow peas. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the zucchini and carrot ribbons and stir / toss the mixture to combine well. At this point your pan may be very full, so stir carefully!
- Fry for about 2-3 minutes until the ribbons are just beginning to soften and wilt a bit. Now add the tofu and about half of the sauce.
- Stirring constantly, let the mixture cook about 2 minutes. more. At this point your vegetables should be just ever so slightly on the soft side, still with some crunch, and definitely not mushy. If your mixture is not very wet you may want to add a bit more sauce. It should be wet, but not swimming in sauce.
- Spoon into individual bowls, garnish with cilantro, chopped almonds, and a wedge of lime.
- Serve immediately with with extra sauce on the side.
You will likely end up with more sauce than you need for the recipe - I like to see how much moisture the vegetables release before I add it all in so the end result doesn't become too soupy. Serve with extra sauce on the side. For a more substantial meal, serve over brown rice.