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There was no way that a street food theme could pass without making glowing reference to Thailand. From the moment I crossed the Cambodian border into Aranyaprathet on my adventure across south-east Asia a few years ago, I was surrounded by the sights, smells and tastes of Thai street food. While we waited for our bus driver to have his bus inspected, the group of weary travellers that I’d joined sat down at an open, street side ‘cafe’ for our first taste. My first ‘real’ pad thai was a good one, and I was hooked.
A lot of the memories of my nights in Bangkok drift by in a Long Island iced tea-induced haze (to be fair, do you realise how cheap those things are on Khaosan Road?), but the food is always familiar. Sans-inhibitions and regard for my own gastrointestinal wellbeing, I sampled a lot. I was eventually punished with a stomach bug that persisted for weeks after I’d returned home, to the disgust of the doctor I visited who declared my illness to be my own fault for ‘going to those kinds of countries in the first place’ (I never saw him again). But there were no regrets.
I often make pad thai at home, without a recipe. But Vegan MoFo is all about trying new things, so this time I tried the pad thai tao hu from Hema Parekh’s Asian Vegan Kitchen- incidentally, the first vegan cookbook (along with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) that I ever bought, back at the Vegan Festival across the road from Chadwiko’s old house in 2008. I adore this book. Everything I’ve made from it has been great, but for some reason it remains relatively neglected on my shelf. I think the authenticity of the recipes has something to do with it- while super delicious, they’re not the most convenient dishes to throw together on short notice.
But it’s time for that neglect to change. This recipe is a good start! Using a few ingredients new to my pad thai bowl, like mooli (also known as daikon or white radish), chives and atsuage tofu (I usually just use extra-firm), this was a change in a very welcome way. Although a little less spicy than my usual concoctions, I loved the sour punch from the liberal use of tamarind. My only recommendation is to add more peanuts- but that’s just good advice for life, really.
While a little more effort than my typical haphazard pad thai, I’ll be turning back to this recipe for a treat, or for discerning guests who actually (gasp!) care about their food being pretty. It looks like the real thing, tastes like the real thing, but without the literal gut-wrenching feeling of participating in a game of bacterial Russian roulette.
Who am I kidding? I’d probably have eaten it even with the risk.