This week I wanted to share one of my go-to evening recipes. One that I like to use when I fancy something a bit different to my normal evening salad but still want something light, healthy and refreshing: Pad Thai Zoodles!
I got the idea for this recipe while staying in Thailand in 2019. I was teaching in a school in a rural area on the outskirts of Bangkok without many local restaurants nearby, so I had mainly lived off all the exotic fresh fruits from the street markets (and my favourite street food snack: Mango Sticky Rice!). Due to the Insane traffic jams it wasn’t really feasible to catch a taxi into the city centre after work in the evenings as it can take up to 3 hours to get into the city!
At the end of our trip we stayed in a hostel in the city centre for a weekend and I was intent to try some of the exotic raw food restaurants I had heard Thailand was famous for. I ate out for every meal that weekend, there was so much interesting stuff to try!
One of my favourite meals was this Pad Thai which used fresh Zucchini* which had been spiralized into noodles.
(*Zucchini is another name for a Courgette but for the purpose of this article I’m going to stick with the American name as I came across it while travelling and to be honest, the name “Z-oodles” sounds a lot better than “C-oodles”!)
Veggie Noodles are a very convenient idea for recipes requiring noodles as they don’t take any time to cook and you can make them from the veggies you have in the fridge rather than having to specially get noodles in and then leave a half open bag of them in your cupboard for months until the next time you want to make a recipe with them. I have experimented with a few different veggie “noodles” (carrot, sweet potato and zucchini) but I think zucchini is by far the best, as they are soft and flexible like real noodles and the neutral flavour takes on the sauce flavours really well.
...But what’s wrong with normal cooked noodles?
Nothing. I'm not about demonising certain foods. I don't like to think of certain foods as good or bad on their own. The important question to ask is always "compared to what?". After all the worst food in the world could become a good option if you were stuck on a deserted island facing starvation. Compared to a greasy takeaway, home cooked noodles are great, but compared to the nutrients in fresh veggies, then the noodles are just empty calories!
If you have read my other blogs then you will know my approach is all about finding ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake. The goal is to make meals that maximise vitamin and mineral content while minimising calories so you get to eat more food! It’s easier to stick to your diet when you are stuffed full rather than restricting intake and craving more. I think this is especially important when it comes to the last meal of the day. However if you prefer cooked noodles then this recipe will work just fine with them instead.
If we compare 200g of normal white spaghetti noodles to 200g of zucchini, we can see that the normal noodles have about 300 calories and very little vitamin content. The same weight of Zucchini has only 30 calories and a good helping of your daily vitamin C intake (30%). That is one tenth of the calories, meaning you could eat 10 times the amount of zucchini noodles than you could eat normal white noodles before putting on weight. This allows you to have a much larger and more satisfying portion. For comparison I have also included cooked noodles made from buckwheat, these come in the middle at about 200 calories for the same weight and are higher in protein than the normal white noodles. If I was going for a cooked option (for example when trying to increase my calories for gaining weight and building muscle) then I would always go for the Buckwheat noodles over the standard white ones. Now that we've finished the science lesson, lets get to the recipe....
PAD THAI ZOODLES RECIPE Here's what you will need...
Ingredients For the Pad Thai Sauce: 1 tbsp Peanut Butter
2 tbsp Tamari 1 Small Lime 1 Date (Soaked in hot water) 1 Clove of Garlic 1 tsp Ginger Powder 0.5 tsp Chili Flakes
2 tbsp Water (approx, use as much as you want to thin the sauce) For the Zoodles: 1 Zucchini (Courgette) (~200g)*Can be swapped for noodles of your choice. 1 Medium Carrot (~60g)
30g Red Cabbage 2 Spring Onions (~30g)
1 Red Bell Pepper (~70g) 120g Chickpeas (Already Cooked) 50g Lambs Lettuce
5g Coriander Leaf, Fresh
0.5 tsp sesame seeds
Instructions 1) Boil the kettle and cover 1 date in boiling water. Leave to soak while you chop the veggies.
2) Use a Spiralizer to chop the zucchini Into noodles, put into a large bowl.
grate carrot and red cabbage into the same bowl
3) Chop spring onions and bell pepper into slices. Add to bowl.
4) Chop lambs lettuce and coriander leaves. Add to bowl.
5) If you are using tinned chickpeas, make sure to rinse them well until there are no bubbles in the water coming off them as it is the liquid they are stored in, not the beans, that causes flatulence! If you are using dry chickpeas then you will have to have cooked and prepared these beforehand. You can heat the chickpeas up a little before adding to the bowl if you enjoy it warm.
6) Now to make the Pad Thai Sauce. Add all the ingredients from the sauce list to the blender, including the date you soaked earlier. If you want the sauce to be warm then use boiling water from the kettle to thin the sauce to a desired consistency that it will pour over your noodles.
7) Pour over the rest of the recipe
8) Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and coriander leaf.
9) Enjoy! For the full Thai experience eat with chopsticks while sitting on the floor! (...and get some extra hip mobility while you're at it!)
While my presentation may not be as good as the one I had in Thailand it sure tastes just as good! "Gin Jey!"
Here's a breakdown of the macronutrient content in this recipe for those of you tracking the nutritional content of your diet: