Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)


My vegan -and equally awesome- version of the popular Thai dish

INGREDIENTS (for 2-3)

1 pack fresh rice noodles* 
5 garlic cloves
4 green onions
2 red tomatoes
1 large carrot (or 2 small)
6-8 Kailan (Chinese broccoli) stems + leaves and flowers** 
1/2 block firm tofu
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 tbsp chili paste (or 1 red chili pepper)
Vegetable oil

1/3 cup sweet Thai soy sauce (syrupy consistency)
4 tbsp soy sauce

*You shouldn't put the fresh rice noodles in the refrigerator because they will get dry and hard. It's better to buy them the same day (or the day before) that you are going to cook them, and keep them at room temperature.
Dry rice noodles work too, but try to find the widest possible.


**Regular broccoli also works, if you can't find kailan.


PREPARATION

If the rice noodles are not cut yet, cut them in large strips and use your fingers to separate them easily. Reserve. 
(They don't have to be perfect, they usually are irregular rectangles a little larger than bite size. It's better to separate them before you start cooking, because the cooking process is really fast and you want to have them ready to throw in the skillet).

I recommend having the tofu and vegetables prepared before starting to cook this dish.  The process moves fast and you can get caught chopping one ingredient and overcook another.  The cooking time is very short once everything is prepared.

Wash the tofu in cold water and squeeze it gently. Drain it using paper towels to remove excess water.
Place a skillet over medium heat and add vegetable oil for deep frying.
Cut the tofu into cubes and add. Deep fry until golden (about 10-15 minutes). 
Use a spatula that can drain excess oil to remove the tofu from the pan.
Put tofu on a plate with paper towels below to remove excess oil.
After 2 minutes remove the paper towels and reserve the tofu (if you don't, it will get soggy).

Wash the kailan (or regular broccoli) and cut it into bite size pieces. Boil it in salty water for about 3 minutes. Drain and reserve. This will cook the kailan a little while giving it a bright green color.

Mince the garlic and reserve.
Wash the green onions and cut into bite size. Reserve.
Wash the carrot and peel it. Cut it into bite size, either slicing it diagonally or cutting thin strips (julienne style). Reserve.
Wash the tomato and cut it in slices. Reserve.
If you are using chili pepper instead or chili paste, mince it and reserve.
Wash the Thai basil and reserve.
Mix the soy sauces in a separate bowl and reserve.

Place a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 5-6 tbsp vegetable oil (mild olive oil works great).
When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chili paste (or minced chili pepper) and stir for about 30 seconds.
Add the green onion, carrot and kailan and stir for 2-3 minutes.
Add the rice noodles, separating them with your fingers while throwing them over the vegetables.
Add the soy sauce mix immediately and stir gently using a spatula. This will prevent the noodles from sticking together.
Add the tomato, tofu and basil leaves and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Turn off heat and serve immediately.

VARIATION: you can make a faster version of this if you don't deep fry the tofu or simply skip it. 
I've also made it with "mock duck" and it's delicious! To cook it properly you have to squeeze it to remove excess water and then fry it in a skillet with 2 tbsp vegetable oil until brown. 

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