Vegan Pad Ka Prao. Say it with me folks. PAD. KA. PRAO.
When I first moved to LA, I landed in the Thai-town district of Hollywood, and I was lucky enough to have some of the nation’s best Thai food at my doorstep. That’s where I fell in love with pad ka prao tofu. Of course, those restaurant dishes are swimming with oil, and this DIY vegan pad ka prao is lighter and healthier, and ready in minutes.
Yes, crispy tofu, bold garlic, fragrant basil leaves, and spicy Thai chilies, all coated in a quartet of sauces. Amazing. And do you know what else is amazing about Pad Ka Prao?
It’s packed with protein.
It’s vegan and keto friendly.
It can be cooked in one pot.
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Another amazing thing about this dish, garlic! Although I love my pre-made garlic paste, you’re going to need fresh garlic for this as we want to infuse the base of the sauce with as much flavor and fragrance as we can. That’s also why you’re going to skip the food processor, if you can help it. To make the chili & garlic base of this dish, you’re going to want to use a mortar & pestle, or really fine chop your chili & garlic by knife. This will ensure that we have a nice chunky paste that will have our vegan pad ka prao bursting with garlic-y goodness throughout.
As far as sauces, you’re going to want to do some research here. Explore your local Asian grocery store (specifically a Thai or Vietnamese store, if you can) and check out the sauce aisles for some of these staples: Vegetarian Oyster Sauce (or sub for Mushroom sauce), Soy Sauce, Vegan Fish Sauce or Nuoc Mam Chay in Vietnamese (you can sub for Soy Sauce if you don’t have this), and Golden Mountain Sauce or Maggi Seasoning.
Here are the sauces I’ve used for this recipe:
When it comes time for cooking, remember – this is a stir-fry! Stir-frys are high heat fast paced cooking. It’s best to have your Tofu fried and ready, all of your veggies and basil washed and chopped ahead of time, your chili & garlic paste on deck, and all of your sauces at an arm’s length. Cause’ once we start wok’n, don’t come a knock’n (?). Work with me here, people.
And that’s it! Once the sauce starts soaking into your veggies and tofu, turn off the heat and fold in your basil. Remember, this is a healthier version of the restaurant classic, so it’s not swimming in oil. If you prefer a more ‘wet’ version, I would double the sauce and add it towards the very end.
With that said, I think it’s time you do yourself a favor, get your hands on some garlic and fresh basil, and make this awesome dish tonight.
- 3 Tbsp. Vegan Oyster Sauce (aka Mushroom Sauce)
- 1 Tbsp. Cooking Oil
- 1 Tbsp. Water
- 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Vegan Fish Sauce
- 2 tsp. Golden Mountain Sauce OR Maggie Seasoning
- ⅓ cup (60 g) Fresh Garlic
- 6-8 Thai Chillies, or per your taste
- 2 cups (~35 g) Holy Basil, Thai Basil, or Sweet Basil
- 1 lb. (16 oz / 480 g) Extra Firm or Super Firm Tofu
- ½ Red Bell Pepper, sliced into strips
- ½ Small Onion, sliced into strips
- If needed, press your tofu to drain out the excess water. Slice tofu into bite sized cubes, and pan fry (or deep fry) them until they're golden brown. Remove from oil, and set on paper to drain.
- Make a paste of chillies and garlic in a mortar & pestle, or roughly chop chillies and garlic with a knife and reserve the paste. Wash and separate basil leaves from stems and set aside to dry.
- In the same pan used to fry the tofu, add a Tbsp. of oil, and heat on medium high until it glistens. Add the chili & garlic paste and stir-fry until fragrant (about 1½ minutes), continuously stirring to prevent it from burning.
- Add in your fried tofu, onions, and peppers and toss. Add your sauces, one at a time, followed by the water. Mix well to coat.
- Cook on high heat for 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the tofu. Turn off the heat, and remove the pan from the burner.
- Once the heat is off, fold in the cleaned basil leaves, reserving some for garnish. Toss well, and let it wilt from the residual heat in the pan.
- Serve with Jasmine or Basmati rice, along with some cucumber slices and lime wedges per your taste.
*When you add the basil, it will look like there is a lot at first - but once it wilts down, it will be okay.