People often think that when you switch to a healthier diet you’re going to be missing out on a lot of those foods that you love. I prefer to think of all the new ways I can make the recipes that I love. Have my Pad Thai and eat it too! Pad Thai is not necesarily an unhealthy recipe. The rice noodles are gluten free which is great and there are always veges, but when you order it in a restaurant the sauce is often filled with lots of oil and sugar and as a vegan I always have to watch out for the hidden fish sauce. Now that I eat mostly raw foods that are full of fresh flavour if I’m eating out with friends and order a cooked version it usually doesn’t live up to my memories of when I used to enjoy that kind of food. It can just seem kind of dull and stodgy.
It’s really simple to make a healthier version of almost any recipe. One that is often much more vibrant and tasty. You just need to look at the flavours and use them in a slightly different way. The real flavour of Pad Thai comes from the sauce, it’s sweet, sour, salty, spicy, tangy and nutty. So I just look at how I can recreate that without all the added refined oil, sugar and fish sauce.
Young Thai coconuts make really amazing noodles and also give it that extra tropical flavour. If you can’t find them just use extra zucchini noodles. Both of these make great alternatives to wheat or white rice noodles that can sometimes make you feel heavy after a meal.
Meat from 2 young thai coconuts
2 cups of shredded red cabbage
1/2 of a red bell pepper
1 spring onion stalk
For the Sauce
the leftover cores of the zucchini
2 pitted medjool dates
8 cherry tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes
2cm slice of fresh ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp tamari
1. Open the coconuts, save the liquid for a smoothie and remove the meat.
There are a couple of ways to open a coconut. You can chop into it with a large cleaver but I like to shave the husk off the top and twist a knife into the shell. If you’re unsure how to open a coconut check out this video. It can be hit and miss with the quality of coconuts. You want to make sure the meat and water are not purple, that means it’s gone bad. Sometimes the meat will be very thin and a bit jelly-ish, that doesn’t make for the best noodles. When you get one with thick meat on the inside that’s the best kind to make noodles with. Unfortunately you can’t tell this when you buy one. To make noodles you want to scrape the meat out in one or two pieces. Start at the top with the back of the spoon facing down and gently push it down prying the meat from the shell. Make sure to wash the meat and remove and bits of shell that may be on there. You can also use a vegetable peeler to remove any brown pieces.
2. Slice the coconut meat into long thin noodles and place in a large bowl.
3. Use a vegetable peeler to create long flat noodles from the carrots and zucchini. Just run the peeler up and down as you turn the carrots and zucchini. With the zucchini stop once you reach the seeded core. Add these to the coconut noodles.
4. Add the shredded red cabbage and sliced red bell pepper and mix everything together.
5. Finely slice or chop the almonds and the spring onions and save to use as a garnish.
Making the sauce
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Plate up the vegetable noodle mixture and pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with almonds and spring onions as shown.
The coconut noodles are a great feature of this recipe, but if you can’t find young thai coconuts the recipe will work fine without them. Just use extra zucchini noodles. The main flavours come from the sauce which could also be used as a salad dressing.
Other vegetables that could be added or substituted are mung bean sprouts, green beans, white cabbage and snow pea shoots. You could also add in broccoli and cauliflower for different textures.