Tofu Pad Thai

November 23, 2021
8 Ratings
Photo by WoonHeng Chia
  • Prep time 35 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

This tofu pad Thai has all the flavors I love: tangy, sweet, and salty. Mung bean sprouts and roasted peanuts add a wonderful crunch. There are a few key ingredients for a good, harmonious pad Thai sauce: tamarind, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Tamarind is one of my favorite ingredients for adding sweet tang to a dish. When you shop for tamarind, look for it packaged in a compressed block. This is my go-to because it has the closest taste to home. For tamarind paste or concentrate, look for a light brown mixture that comes in a plastic jar, probably from Thailand. Some may still have the seeds, so it’s best to strain through a fine-mesh sieve before mixing with the rest of the sauces.

For vegan fish sauce, I like making a homemade version. Or use a store-bought version if you can find one (just adjust the seasoning accordingly, since store-bought sauces can be saltier than homemade). This pad Thai sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated—so I often double up the volume and save some for later; it’s really handy to have around.

When it comes to noodles, I prefer Sun Voi rice sticks. These come in different sizes: small, medium, large, extra-large. Large is my go-to for this dish. All you need is to soak the desired amount in water until they turn white and pliable. This recipe was inspired by the Hot Thai Kitchen blog from Pailin "Pai" Chongchitnant, a chef and creator. —WoonHeng Chia

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces dried rice sticks (such as Sun Voi, size large)
  • 1 golf ball–size piece tamarind pulp (from a block) or 1½ teaspoons tamarind paste, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons vegan fish sauce, plus more if needed
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut or palm sugar, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning soy sauce (such as Golden Mountain), plus more if needed
  • Neutral oil, for cooking
  • 7 ounces firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons preserved dried radish (optional but highly recommended)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces mung bean sprouts
  • 1 handful Chinese chives or scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 handful salted or unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, crushed or chopped
  • Chile flakes, to taste (I use Sichuan, any kind works)
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  1. Soak the rice sticks in room-temperature water for 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the package directions, until they become pliable.
  2. Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in ½ cup of hot water and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once it’s cool enough to handle, use your fingers to squeeze the tamarind to remove the seeds. Strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl—it should yield about 6 tablespoons. (Skip this step if you're using tamarind paste.)
  3. In a medium bowl, stir the strained tamarind juice (or paste), stock, fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust with more tamarind, fish sauce, or seasoning sauce as needed.
  4. Drain the noodles and loosen the strands with your fingers to prevent them from sticking together.
  5. Pan-fry the tofu: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium and add a splash of oil. Pan-fry the tofu for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown, then transfer to a plate.
  6. Into the same pan over medium heat, pour 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the shallots, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the preserved radish, if using, and the garlic and continue to stir-fry for 1 more minute or so. (If you aren’t using the preserved radish, increase the seasoning sauce to taste later on.)
  7. Add the tofu and rice sticks and give it a quick stir to spread out the noodles. Slowly pour in the sauce in a swirling motion to cover all the noodles. Using tongs, gently toss the noodles with the sauce until the noodles absorb most of the sauce. If the noodles start to clump together, reduce the heat to medium-low and keep tossing.
  8. Add most of the most of the mung bean sprouts (reserve some for garnish), most of the chives (reserve some for garnish), most of the peanuts (reserve some for garnish), and chile flakes. Give it a toss to combine and cook until the vegetables are as crisp-tender as you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  9. Garnish with more sprouts, chives, and peanuts; sprinkle with more chile flakes. Serve with the lime wedges alongside.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lily Diamond
    Lily Diamond
  • Lira
  • Brinda Ayer
    Brinda Ayer
  • Wendy

4 Reviews

Lily D. November 17, 2022
I made this and LOVED it. I used a Japanese Bulldog-style fruit-based sauce in place of tamarind, and it worked perfectly — in case that might help someone else who doesn’t have tamarind on hand. YUM
Lira December 2, 2021
Made this tonight, and it's a winner! The sauce is *so* flavorful, with the perfect balance of tangy/savory/sweet. I also love how quick it is to put together: definitely going into the weeknight rotation. Thank you for a fabulous recipe, WoonHeng!
Wendy November 30, 2021
Thank you Woonheng!
Although I have not made this yet, judging by Brinda’s review, my family may be eating this everyday for the rest of our lives. We love Pad Thai but have just been omitting the fish sauce. So happy you posted this recipe. I will definitely make it this weekend! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
Brinda A. November 29, 2021
Made this last night for dinner and cannot recommend highly enough! The sauce is out of this world—so savory and glossy on the noodles—and alone is worth making the recipe. I did find that my noodles needed a bit more water (or perhaps more soaking time, which I did not realize until it was too late!) than called for to become fully cooked, but otherwise, an A++++ recipe. Thanks WoonHeng!