I wish pad thai wasn’t so likeable. Its popularity crested like a bad fad, but unlike Hypercolor shirts, I still love it every time. Why should I be embarrassed to order it at a Thai restaurant, then? Somehow I can’t. I feel the server’s judgmental eyes searing through my skull, wondering if I’m a real eater. Ordering pad thai seems like the ultimate cop-out, like I’m a kid again and there’s only one thing on the entire menu that sounds even remotely appealing. Like if I ordered it, I’d have to explain myself.
A lingering pad thai craving steered me toward these noodles. There’s nothing particularly Thai about them (they’re made with spaghetti and cashew butter, for goodness’ sake). In fact, with lime, cilantro, and fish sauce, they’re more Vietnamese than anything (but please don’t call this Vietnamese food). My husband dubbed them phad thai, pronounced like “fad” to make fun of how much I love noodles in anything nutty, and it stuck.
Most importantly, they’re delicious. With plenty of deep cashew flavor and a little heat, they have what it takes to cure my pad thai craving when I don’t have the ingredients for pad thai or the guts to order it in.
Recipe for Phad Thai Noodles
Recipe 64 of 365
Feel free to substitute cooked shrimp for the chicken. And make plenty – they’re delicious the next day straight out of the fridge.
TIME: 35 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings
2 large chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup cashew butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped scallions (green and white parts)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus limes for garnish, if desired
1 – 3 teaspoons sriracha, Chinese chili paste, or other hot sauce
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
1/2 cup whole roasted cashews, chopped
Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. When the pan is hot, add the oil, then add the chicken and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred the meat. Cover with foil to keep warm.
While the chicken is cooking, combine the cashew butter and the boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Allow the water to melt and soften the cashew butter for about 5 minutes, then use a fork to stir the two together until the mixture is smooth. Stir the scallions, ginger, soy, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, hot sauce (to taste), and cilantro into the cashew butter to make a sauce, and set aside.
Salt the pasta water, and cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Place the pot over low heat, add the cashew sauce and shredded chicken, and toss with tongs until well combined and the sauce is warmed through. Stir in the cashews, and serve warm, garnished with lime wedges, if desired.