Disclaimer: While I maintain that this recipe is to die for, I’ll also admit I thought I might die before it was finally done. This is a prep-intensive, pain-in-the-butt dish to prepare. But it’s so great! I ate it twice a day until it was gone (which didn’t take long). So just know ahead of time what you’re in for, and get someone else to wash all the dishes. I’ll also tell you shortcuts you can take that will still result in a fabulous dish.
Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Pad Thai
¼ cup tamarind paste or rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
½ cup water
Pad Thai Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash
5 Tbl vegetable or peanut oil
8 ounces extra-firm tofu (optional*)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs, whisked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of scallions,, white & light green parts, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 pound (or more) shelled raw small or medium shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
2 limes, cut into wedges
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup bean sprouts ****
For the sauce:
Whisk together the tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey, and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high heat for 30 seconds and stir briskly. Set aside.
For the squash:
Cut off the ends of the squash so that you can then set it safely on its end on a cutting board. Cut the squash in half lengthwise,** and scoop out all the seeds.*** Microwave or bake the spaghetti squash. How long it takes will depend on the size of the squash.
To bake spaghetti squash, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash halves flesh-side down in a large baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, until you can easily pierce the skin of the squash with a fork.
To microwave, place the squash halves flesh-side down in microwave-safe baking dish. Fill the dish with about an inch of water. Microwave for 10-20 minutes, or however long it takes for you to be able to pierce the squash skin.
When cooked, use a fork to shred the inside squash strands into a bowl. Set aside.
For the rest of the pad Thai:
If you’re using the tofu, put a weight over the tofu for a while to press out the moisture. Then dry the block, and dice it into ½ inch squares.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil, and swirl the pan to coat. Add the tofu and stir-fry on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked tofu to a large bowl. Set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the onions and scallions. Cook until the onions are just beginning to soften and start to be golden in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the tofu.
Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan. Pour the whisked eggs into the pan, let them sit for 15-30 seconds until the eggs start to set, and then stir to scramble. When cooked, add the eggs to the bowl with the tofu and onion.
Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan, and cook the shrimp until just opaque, a minute or two on each side. Transfer to the bowl with the tofu, onions, and eggs..
Heat the last tablespoon of peanut oil in the pan and add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, 10 seconds or so. Add the spaghetti squash and spread into a single layer. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then stir the squash and spread it back out again. Repeat a few times until the squash is warmed and beginning to show golden, roasted color.
Pour the pad Thai sauce around the outside edge of the pan, then stir it into the squash.
Add the scallions and bean sprouts to the pan with the squash, and stir to combine. Add the tofu, onions, and egg back to the pan and stir to combine. Taste again, adding additional sauce if needed.
Transfer the pad Thai to a large serving plate and top with chopped peanuts, cilantro, , and lime wedges.
Collapse into a chair and blissfully enjoy your triumph.
* I will go to my grave insisting that tofu tastes like phlegm. But it’s healthy, and it’s an authentic part of pad Thai, so suit yourself.
** If you microwave any whole winter squash for a minute or two, it will then be ever so much easier to cut.
*** Scooping out the seeds of any winter squash is easy if you use as serrated spoon, sometimes called a grapefruit spoon.
**** Let me put on my doctor hat for a moment to talk about bean sprouts. Please don’t eat them uncooked. Don’t add raw sprouts at the end, the way it’s done with most pad Thai recipes. All bean sprouts, whether home-grown or commercial, have to be grown in a warm, moist environment and are more susceptible to harboring harmful bacteria. In particular, people with weakened immune systems, children, and pregnant women should not eat uncooked sprouts of any kind (1).
Skip the tofu and scallions.
Skip the garlic — or just cook whole, peeled cloves, and dig them out before serving.
Use cooked shrimp
Don’t bother chopping the peanuts.
Don’t bother chopping the cilantro – just rip off leaves and scatter them about.
That person you’ve corralled to wash the dishes? Have him or her help you prep. And then give them a great big kiss of thanks as you sit down to eat your masterpiece.