Allaya Fleischer is a foodie and world traveller who unifies her life experiences, diverse friendships, and family history through food. Originally from Thailand, her stays and travels took her through Germany, France, England, Barbados, Nepal, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and finally to the United States, among other places. See Allaya's blog, I Speak Food, at www.allaya.com and her companion Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ISpeakFood. You may also follow @allayaf on Twitter.
The challenge here is to successfully pull off the flavor-balancing act while still keeping it kosher. Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in Pad Thai. With fish sauce being a fermented mixture of anchovies, salt, and water, some traditions question its kosher status, since, at the time of writing this, there is no fish sauce that exists with a hechsher. In Thailand, our family always made our own fish sauce, which was a common practice among the families in the area, so this was never an issue.
Another concern comes from the status of fish. Even if fish sauce were deemed to be “acceptable,” many traditions hold that fish and meat must not be eaten together. So, as you can see, making Pad Thai kosher poses some challenges that are not easy to overcome.
I’ve often been asked about a kosher and vegetarian alternative to fish sauce. The answer is that there’s no definitive singular substitute. There are many recipes for vegan fish sauce online, but I’ve found most of them lacking. Although some taste good, and are relatively good condiments all on their own, as I said, in some applications, it’s easier to “swap” out this ingredient than in others. For this particular dish, we really need to try hard to replicate the essence and flavor of fish sauce, rather than simply adding an umi flavor, as we can in other dishes that have a more complex flavor profile.
For kosher Pad Thai, I substitute fish sauce with one part shiro miso to two parts Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (certified OU). In this combination, the miso adds the fermented “fishiness” quality, and the Liquid Aminos provides the saltiness while rounding out the flavors. This combination is much less salty than actual fish sauce, so please keep this in mind, as you may need to add extra salt (depending on how salty your miso is) to your final product. The other ingredients in the sauce are tamarind, which adds a tart fruitiness (at the time of this writing, does not require a hechsher, if it is “only” tamarind in the ingredients), and brown sugar (it’s traditional to use palm sugar, but brown sugar is more readily available most places, and the difference in flavor is almost indistinguishable in this application), which provides the sweetness. The paprika is really for making the color a little nicer, so if you don’t have any, there’s no need to panic.
The only element that may make this dish appear challenging is the sheer number of ingredients in it. You really don’t have to worry, though, since a lot of it can be made in advance and put together in a matter of minutes.
Allaya’s Kosher Pad Thai
About 6 servings (you can halve the recipe, but still make the full amount of sauce and save the rest for later)
For the sauce:
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