I love all things spice. In my younger years of unstoppable optimism and blissful financial ignorance, I spent a great deal of money on travel (work in the summer, transfer my box of dollar bills into American Express Traveler’s Checks, and dart off for the fall). I spent a good deal of time in South East Asia, savoring the red skies and spices of India.
There is nothing that can compare to the vibrancy, the intensity of South East Asia – from the people, to the streets, to the food, every part of one’s day, every moment, is saturated in vivid intensity. Every flavor, heightened; every sense and sensation, rising to meet it.
The bad is that much worse, but the good times? They are branded into my memory and my soul (and that goes doubly for the food).
Sadly, American-ized South East Asian cuisine lacks that same vibrancy – the colors, the ingredients, the flavors are there. But they are almost always missing something.
When pregnant with my son, Atticus, I went on a spice binge of epic proportions. I craved curry and pad thai. I longed for Delhi street foods and pomegranates. I dreamed of samosas and butter chicken and even that bite of fennel at the end of an epic meal.
I worked with what I had. I would routinely order an already spicy and delicious red curry with tofu from a little restaurant in Crested Butte (legendary among ski circles) known as Ryce. I would order it extra extra EXTRA spicy… with extra EXTRA veggies, and then add my own spices for good measure.
Now, a tad more comfortable in the kitchen and a bit more conscious, I am convinced that the secret to a great bit of spice lies in the cooks and the hands that prepare it. The right mindset, that slow consistent effort, that dedication to simple things done with passion – that is the secret to a good, spicy bit of heaven.
That, and a lot of veggies.
Yes, it’s true. Veggies are the spice of LIFE. They provide nourishment and joy. They make every meal better. And they make my body sing and my spirit shine.
Rice and noodles, I have found, just dull all that spicy goodness. Like a sponge, they steal all my flavor into a bed of dully beige “bleh.” And, after all, I’d rather have more room in my belly for the “good stuff.”
Thus, a bit of creativity, a lot of love, and more veggies later, I have perfected it: my spicy, veggie most, all the GOOD stuff, Pad Thai.
Trust me. You want some (did I mention it’s pretty healthy? There is literally no down side to my favorite meal – I’d make it every night if my husband would permit it…and sometimes I do – just for me).
Are you ready for this? It (and spaghetti squash) might just change your life for the better.
NOTE: Spaghetti Squash is an amazing vegetable. If you have never had it, you need to change that – immediately. When cooked it has the consistency of rice noodles (just with a LOT more flavor and nutrients). What’s more, the squash does not get soggy when saturated in curry-goodness, and it does not change its texture when re-heated. It’s my miracle plant (and I cannot WAIT to grow a few hundred of them in our garden this year).
Veggie Most: Spicy Pad Thai
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 2-4 tbs water
- 2+ tbs siracha
- 3 tbs cornstarch
- 2 tbs oil (peanut oil is recommended)
- 12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, beans, or other veggie
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 green onions, cut into small pieces
- 2 tbs. chopped peanuts
- Jalopeno, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- lime wedges
- Crushed red pepper
- fish sauce (optional)
Preparing the Squash
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Place squash on a parchment lined baking sheet. Poke squash 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 60 to 80 minutes. Cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Scrape flesh into stringy noodles. Set aside.
Preparing the sauce
- Combine vinegar, water, honey, and sriracha in sauce pan. Hear over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add fish sauce if desired. Add additional water if needed. Add more/less of honey and heat according to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preparing the tofu
- Coat tofu in cornstarch in a small bowl; mix.
- Heat large skillet over high heat. Add oil (peanut oil preferred) and coat pan.
- Add tofu.
- Watch diligently, stirring frequently until all sides are brown.
- Remove from pan and set aside.
Preparing the eggs
- Add oil to pan; coat.
- Add eggs; cook over medium heat. Create a thin omelette. When cooked, chop eggs with spatula. Remove from heat and set aside.
Putting it all together
- Add oil to pan; coat.
- Add garlic and onion. Saute over medium heat for 1 minute.
- Add jalapenos (if desired) and red pepper (or other veggies).
- Add spaghetti squash in layers. Cook each layer for 1 minute, stirring frequently until squash is warm and golden brown.
- Fold sauce into squash. Mix.
- Add green onions and bean sprouts. Mix.
- Add tofu. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring frequently.
- Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with peanuts, lime wedges, cilantro, and crushed red pepper. Serve immediately or store for later.
I like to double, even triple, the sauce (and quadruple the spice) – but that is up to you!
You can substitute the tofu for more veggie or chicken (I recommend marinating the chicken the night before with some lime and yogurt).
This meal stores well for about 3 days. Prep ahead of time and enjoy a savory lunch for DAYS!
While nothing can compare to the “real thing,” with a bit of love, this healthy, scrumptious dish comes close. Enjoy with the people you love!