I traveled to Thailand about 8 years ago with my brother and his girlfriend and fell in love with the landscape, the culture, and the food. In a land of spectacular vistas and amazing people — the highlight was still the food. I had some pad thai out of a dilapidated sidewalk cart in Bangkok and it was probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever ingested in my entire life.
My love of Thai food has persisted, though on a Paleo diet, I haven’t been able to eat as much: rice and noodles are fairly pervasive throughout Thai cuisine. But I started experimenting a few years ago when I was trying to come up with some creative Paleo recipes for a food blog, and years later, I think it’s close to perfect.
This dish is kind of a pain in the ass to make. It has a ton of ingredients and your kitchen will be covered in cutting boards, pots, and cilantro remnants. But oh, man, will it be worth this. I’ve served this a few times when we’ve had people over for dinner, and it always gets rave reviews.
Caveat: this is not a 100% Paleo dish, as there is salt in the fish sauce, soy in the soy sauce, and the brown sugar is obviously not permitted on a strict paleo diet. But it’s pretty damned close, which is what I aim for in my diet, and overall a very healthy meal. You could cut the sugar out if you want to be really badass, but the sweet/salty/sour/spicy combo is what makes this dish so damned mint.
2 medium sized spaghetti squash
2 medium to large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (sub tofu for this and the shrimp if you want to go veg)
15 prawns, de-shelled
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
3/4 tbsp. tamarind paste (dissolved in 1/4 cup steaming water) You can find tamarind paste at any Asian grocery store, or probably in the Asian section of your regular grocery store too.
2 tbsp. fish sauce (I use a bit more, but this one’s according to taste)
1-3 tsp. sambel olek (I always use 3 heaping teaspoons!)
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 green onions (sliced)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped cashews (I stuck mine in the coffee grinder and pulsed for perfectly crumbled cashews)
1/4 cup no or low sodium organic chicken or veg stock
1 or 2 red chilis, sliced
handful of wedges of fresh lime
virgin olive oil for stir frying
1. Poke your spaghetti squash with multiple fork holes and stick them in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes or the microwave on high for about 10-14 minutes, depending on size of squash. The squash tastes slightly better out of the oven but is hella more convenient nuked – which is the way I almost always do it because who has an hour to roast stuff in the oven?
1. Mix cornstarch and soy sauce in a shallow baking dish. Add chicken breasts and shrimp (or tofu) and marinate for 15 minutes or more.
2. Put large pot on medium heat, add olive oil, smashed garlic clove and hot pepper if desired.
3. Add chicken and shrimp to pot and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Cut chicken into small bite sized pieces.
4. Make your pad thai sauce: mix dissolved tamarind paste with sambel olek, brown sugar, and fish sauce, and whisk till all ingredients are mixed nicely. Sample spoon. Delicious? Add more fish sauce if you’d like.
5. While your chicken and shrimp (or tofu) are cooking, chop your cilantro and onion, slice your lime into wedges, and grind up your cashews. Put them all in little individual bowls. Or just leave them lying around on your cutting board, prompting your husband to grimace in dismay at the overall state of the kitchen (he’ll forgive you once he tastes this.)
6. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock to the chicken/shrimp/tofu pot.
7. Remove spaghetti squash from microwave. Cut open, remove seeds, and then remove strands of spaghetti squash. I use a potholder to hold the squash down while I dig out the flesh. Spaghetti squash is a bit of a pain bit it makes a surprisingly awesome noodle substitute in this dish.
8. Add spaghetti squash to pot. Crack open both eggs, and add to mixture as well. Stir with wooden spoon.
9. Add in all 3 cups of bean sprouts.
10. Add in your pad thai sauce (the brown sugar/sambel olek/fish sauce/tamarind mix)
Taste test. Add more fish sauce or spice if needed, but I bet you it’s not.
Ladle into bowls. Top with green onion, cilantro, and cashews. Squeeze lime over top of the whole shebang. Seriously, you won’t believe how good this is.