Snackable: Pad Thai Noodle Salad

Phad Thai Noodle Salad

I first had Pad Thai on a snowy day in New York City about seven years ago. Andrew and I were visiting my cousins Jeff and Natasha (they of the fab Brooklyn shops UVA Wines and Whisk– I come from good foodie stock, don’t yah know) for a bit of pre-Christmas shopping and sightseeing. One evening, they took us for dinner at a Thai restaurant in the East Village, where I had my first bite of those tangy noodles, tossed with tender shrimp, chewy tofu and crunchy peanuts.

It seems bizarre to me, now, that I could have lived to the age of 20 without trying Pad Thai. Loved the world over, it’s since become a favourite of mine, and particularly of Andrew’s. Often one of the only vegetarian options on a fusion-focused menu, I’ve spent many an evening chowing down on this delicious dish.


But when I make Pad Thai at home, I salad-ify it. I’m not worried about being inauthentic (there are so many Pad Thai recipes kicking around that I’m not convinced there is one proper way to make it), but am more concerned with versatility and stackability. Simply put, I don’t really care what temperature I eat this at. Served right away, the residual heat from the veggies and sauce will give it an authentic, rib-sticking warmth. Wait a while and the flavours mellow into a nice room-temperature dish that can be either main or side. Kept in the fridge and this becomes the stuff of snacking legend, refreshing and flavourful and ready at a moment’s notice.

Another reason I’m calling this a salad is its lack of protein. While I love the tofu, egg and prawn-laden versions served up in restaurants (NYC or elsewhere), I’m not so keen on those items when cold and two days old. Same reasoning behind the prudent amount of dressing; an overly “saucy” Pad Thai can get soggy in the fridge, while this version keeps for days.

Not that it does, of course. I did say it was snackable.

Note: For this recipe, peanut oil will give the most authentic flavour, but any neutral oil will do. I’m a lazy rebel, so I just use olive.


Phad Thai Noodle Salad

adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

serves 4

For the noodle salad:

  • 200g rice noodles
  • 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. neutral oil
  • 1/2  green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise then julienned
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • lime wedges, to serve

For the dressing: 

  • 2 Tbs. Thai fish sauce (or use soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp. sugar

  1.  Put the noodles in a large pot or bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Cover with a lid or plate and let soften according to package directions- anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. When tender, drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. Place in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp. of oil to keep from clumping.
  2.  Heat the rest of the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, red pepper and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes; long enough to tenderise and get a bit of colour, but quickly enough to retain most of the crunch.
  3.  While the vegetable cook, make the dressing. Simmer all ingredients in a small pot over a gentle heat, whisking frequently, until the tamarind paste dissolves and you have a uniform sauce. You will want to add several tablespoons of water to achieve a “saucer-like” consistency; it shouldn’t be too thick or gloppy.
  4.  When the vegetables are wilted but still crunchy, remove from heat and toss with the noodles in the bowl. Pour over the dressing (using a sieve to strain out any tamarind bits, if need be) and also mix in half of the chilli, green onions, coriander and peanuts. Toss everything well.
  5.  Arrange the noodles on a large platter, or remove to individual bowls. Scatter the remaining chilli, green onions, coriander and peanuts over the top and serve with lime wedges.

108 Responses

  1. I love Phad Thai and this sounds like a great way to satisfy that craving at home… and up your veggie intake for the day. Thanks!

  2. Listeing to you on R4 as I type – will check out your blog after programme ends! Great publicity for your blog – watch your comments soar….!

  3. Hi, I just heard you on R4. You did really well. I think I’m going to try the Phad Thai on my Dad who arrives from the States tomorrow!

  4. Yes, I too heard you on R4 and agree with other posts that it was good publicity. I now will follow your blog with great interest – well done!

  5. Just heard you on the Food Programme and was particularly interested in your term “ecotarian”. Not heard that before, but I guess I’m one of those. It’s also good to discover another good vegetarian blog.

  6. Yay for you Ele! Glad you are receiving (much deserved) attention. Your blog is one of my favorites. We eat A LOT of Thai food out here in Seattle but I rarely order Pad Thai because I just feel it is so overdone. I definitely need to just make it myself since I love all of these flavors.

  7. Thank you everyone for the lovely comments! I truly wasn’t expecting so many people to click over here AS the radio programme was actually on.
    Choclette- I don’t hear “ecotarian” a lot, but I did a few years ago and it just struck a chord- it seemed to sum up everything I try to do with my diet. I don’t use it a lot though, for fear of drawing blank stares!
    Dana- I know what you mean. I sometimes find that the best Pad Thai is actually in non-Thai restaurants. Fusion places tend to put a different spin on it. Hmm, there’s an idea for a future post….

  8. Pad Thai is one of my favorite Thai food!! In Thailand, we don’t really put meat in Pad Thai. We only use tofu, egg and bean sprout, but of course, you can add anything you like 🙂
    I would recommend Thai papaya salad. It’s one of the most popular salad snacking dishes in Thailand!

  9. This recipe looks interesting. Phad Thai is one of my favorites but I rarely ever have any left to take home as I just keep eating it when at a restaurant!
    I have the same Liberty of London (from Target) bowl that I use every morning for my steel cut oats with dates and walnuts! I love it (both the bowl and the oats!)

  10. I made the most amazing Pad Thai tonight for my girlfriend and her sons…. Ingredients from an awesome Asian Market… Good times!

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