Pad Thai for Cheaters

Years ago, long before I was walking and talking and blogging about my oats, my dad took a cooking class from a Thai master chef. He spent a thrilling handful of evenings learning to prepare delicious traditional dishes in a 1×1 foot space (apparently this is all that any cook should need) and venturing into the world of lesser known ingredients like fish sauce and pickled radish.

Lucky for us, he kept a binder filled with each recipe they made and all of the chicken scratchings and notes that came along with them. It would help if I could read his handwriting but he’s been kind enough to share the details of many a dish over the phone.

A few years ago he rediscovered the magic of his Thai binder and his recipe for pad thai became a regular visitor to our dinner table. I realized yesterday that I had not even thought to make this or any other of my favorite Thai dishes since moving last winter and, well, you can guess what I made for dinner last night.

I couldn’t find my dad’s recipe amidst the chaos that is my food binder and instead opted to make this one. You see, my father’s recipe was created by a Thai master chef and yet appears to be missing ingredients that so many pad thai recipes include, namely tamarind paste. While I know that tamarind is the flavor people most identify with pad thai, even if unknowingly, my dad’s is undeniably delicious and, well, tastes like pad thai. Like really amazing, fresh, homemade pad thai. I’m not sure how this can be but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to make another recipe containing this supposed key ingredient and see for myself what the fuss is about.

Bad news. There was no tamarind to be found in any supermarket within 500 feet of my T stop. That’s not saying much but that does mean that…gasp…I had to buy pad thai sauce.

I checked and double checked and rechecked the ingredients and nutritional details of Annie Chung’s pad thai sauce and as far as bottled sauces go, it really wasn’t so bad. Most importantly of all, it promised to taste like pad thai.

I have to admit that tamarind wasn’t the only ingredient that I was missing. I refused to buy sprouts because I knew I would never finish the bag before they began to turn brown and soggy. Pickled radish must be off in hiding with all of the little bottles of tamarind paste so that was out. And I forgot the cilantro. And the peanuts.

So what the heck did I have you ask?

Cheater’s Pad Thai
serves 2


  • 1/2 package Annie Chung’s brown rice noodles, soaked in room temperature water for 45 minutes
  • 1/3 cup Annie Chung’s pad thai sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large scallions, minced
  • 2/3 package extra firm tofu, drained, dried, and cut into bite size chunks

1 lime, sliced into pretty little rounds


  • Slice the tofu into 3 blocks and wrap in a towel. Place a heavy book or pan on top to allow most of the liquid to seep out and for the edges to become dry.
  • Drain and rinse the noodles and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok.  Slice the tofu blocks into bite size chunks and add to the hot pan. Fry the tofu until each side becomes golden and crispy and then remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the noodles to the pan along with a 1/4 cup water and stir until they begin to soften.
  • Add the sauce and minced garlic and stir until the noodles are well coated and the garlic begins to become aromatic.
  • Add the cooked tofu and toss until everything is well mixed.
  • Plate and top with chopped scallions and some lime slices.

Yes, I totally cheated. So why did I even bother sharing with you? Well, one, because I couldn’t accept that my great post idea of pad thai failed so horribly to come to fruition. Most of all, though, I shared because it’s okay to not play the role of a gourmet chef every single night. Short cuts are okay. Really. And while I could have ordered take out and had someone else make my pad thai, I was infinitely more satisfied knowing exactly what had gone into my dinner and knowing it did resemble the makings of a healthy meal.

Oh, I ate cold asparagus and slices of orange bell pepper on the side. I couldn’t even be bothered to cook veggies.

This was suprisingly delicious and really did taste like pad thai. Thank you Annie Chung!

Pretty good looking for being a cheat, huh?


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