I’m a huge fan of Pad Thai. However, as the wife of someone with a peanut allergy, I’m also a huge fan of food that wouldn’t be an attempt on my husband’s life. 😅 When I was trying to figure out a version of this traditionally peanut-loaded dish that he could eat, I learned pretty quickly that I would have to build this up from scratch.
But let’s back this up for a minute and explain what Pad Thai is. Pad Thai is made of rice noodles, eggs, veggies, shrimp or chicken (or sometimes tofu), peanuts, and a unique tamarind-based sauce; it’s considered one of the national dishes of Thailand. According to some accounts, it was created in the 1930s by then-Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram as a way to boost national morale while they were in the process of building the country. The dish gained popularity during World War II, when a rice shortage led the government to encourage the people to eat noodles instead.
This dish has been the national pride of Thailand for decades, and for good reason!Pad Thai manages to hit all the right notes for a dish. It’s light while still satisfying. It has sour notes from the tamarind paste in the sauce, sweet notes from the carrots and shrimp, savory flavors from the chicken, and the tender bite of the rice noodles rounds it out beautifully.
To make this accessible to those with peanut allergies, I would recommend making the sauce from scratch, since so many of the bottled varieties include peanuts. You do need access to a well-stocked Asian market for ingredients like fish sauce (a pungent sauce made from anchovies—I promise, the strong smell goes away when it’s mixed with everything else!) and tamarind paste (from a sweet-and-sour fruit that’s grown in a variety of tropical locales), but the actual assembly takes less than two minutes. Also, chopped cashews make a perfect substitute for the peanuts in the original recipe.
This dish will be a delicious introduction to the art of Thai food! If you’re hungry, give it a shot!
Peanut-Free Pad Thai
- 3 TBSP oyster sauce
- 3 TBSP fish sauce
- 2 1/2 TBSP tamarind paste
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 2 TBSP sriracha (more or less, depending on how hot you like it)
- 1 TBSP rice vinegar
1 lb rice noodles
1/2 medium yellow onion, julienned
1 large carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely sliced
8 oz chicken thighs, cut into thin slices
8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup bean sprouts
Garnishes: Crushed cashews, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges
To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Cook and drain the rice noodles according to the instructions on the package.
Put a wok or a large sauté pan on medium heat with a little bit of oil. Sauté the onion until tender, then add the carrot, garlic, and green onions. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add in the chicken and shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are opaque and pink, and the chicken is fully cooked.
Move all the ingredients to one side of the pan, then pour the eggs in. Cook the scrambled eggs, then mix them in with the rest of the ingredients. Add the cooked rice noodles and the sauce, and toss to combine.
Stir in the bean sprouts just before plating the noodles, and garnish with the cashews, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Serves about 4.
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