Do you have any meals that everyone you know associates with you? For me, that meal is veg-heavy, Thai-inspired, with lots of cilantro and lime juice, and served with peanut sauce, always and forever. Oh, and bonus points if noodles are involved.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to get back to sharing recipes that I’m most excited about, whether or not Google Trends or sponsors think they’re the way to go. So, if you’re noticing a trend with the Asian vibes and peanut sauce, that would be why. This is the food that I’m eating and loving at the moment. In all honesty, I started to feel kind of blah about this space because I was getting too in my head about what I should be doing strategically rather than what I felt passionate about sharing. It can be tricky balancing the two; I’m writing for you, and I’m also trying to be true to me. This is why I started my new “I Tried It” series and why I have a couple of other longer-term projects in the works (I hope to share more on those soon!).
So this tofu pad thai salad…Aaron calls it “Amanda food” every time I make it, and the good news is that he’s almost as obsessed with it as I am. It has the ideal ratio of chewy rice noodles to vegetables, with crispy marinated tofu (Tofu Haters: get yourself a tofu press and try the method I’ve outlined below. It might just make you a tofu lover.), plus the BEST peanut dressing—seriously. I’ve been tweaking my peanut dressing recipe for years and I really do feel like it’s perfect based on not only my personal opinion, but everyone else who’s tried it too. It’s a really simple blender recipe with seven basic ingredients and nothing fancy, and yet it’s everything you could ever want from a peanut sauce. If you make nothing else from this pad thai salad, make the under-five-minute peanut sauce and then go forth and put it on everything.
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package (16 ounces) extra firm tofu, pressed then cubed
- ½ cup creamy unsweetened & unsalted peanut butter
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons sriracha (or to taste)
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 1½ tablespoons fresh, peeled ginger
- 1-2 tablespoons water, optional for a thinner consistency
- 8 ounces Pad Thai rice noodles
- 2 cups shredded napa cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
- ¾ ounce fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
- lightly salted roasted peanuts, chopped
- toasted sesame seeds
- lime wedges
- Marinate the tofu: In a shallow dish, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, and garlic. Add the tofu to the marinade, tossing to coat all sides. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- While the tofu marinates, make the dressing: Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing/serving bowl. If you find that your dressing is on the thicker side (this varies depending on the brand of peanut butter you use), feel free to blend in 1-2 tablespoons of water to thin it.
- Cook the tofu: Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add a small pour of sesame oil and cook the tofu, giving each piece a little space on all sides to brown. Cook the tofu for 2-4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crispy. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Make the salad: Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Add the noodles to the bowl of dressing, along with the tofu, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, basil, and green onions. Gently toss to combine. Garnish with chopped peanuts, sesame seeds, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.
Normally I only press my tofu for 5-10 minutes, but for this recipe it's best if you can press it for 30 minutes or more to remove as much water as possible and allow the marinade to really soak in. The result is a chewy tofu that's loaded with flavor. It will also get extra crispy around the edges when you cook it! I bought my tofu press on Amazon.