Vegan Thai Pad Gra Prow – Spicy Beef & Basil – with Wide Rice Noodles & Bok Choy

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

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So – last week on Tuesday – I began a test to see how long I could go without spending ANY money on groceries.  The only cheats allowed would be the delivery of vegetables I get every two weeks from Farm Fresh To You & any restaurant meals.  I eat out VERY seldom so – that second one is not much of a cheat.  Still, I started the challenge out eating that Gardenburger from Carney’s.  That cost me $10 with fries & a drink.  Then, I spent the next week eating things like these:

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Vegans, beware!  The Morning Star veggie sausage is merely vegetarian – not vegan.  If I ever eat breakfast (and I seldom do) – it typically looks like that above.

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I eat tortilla pizzas a SHOCKINGLY frequent amount of dinners per month.  I adore them.  And that cheese there is vegan!    It is Parmela Creamery cheese.  I like it A LOT more than Daiya which – I think – tastes funny & doesn’t melt easily.

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More often than not – I eat a giant, zero-carb, 100-calorie bowl of vegan pho for lunch.  Made with shirataki noddles – it is a wonderfully filly & guiltless soup.

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That is a salad of red lettuce, tomatoes & (I admit) a bit of goat cheese.

I also ate my Vegan Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole with Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce and my Vegan Potato, Leek, Fennel & Turnip Soup with Carrots & Pepitas – seen below, respectively, so I had a pretty well-fed week.  In the past when I attempt the pantry challenge – I do not allow the acquisition of ANYTHING if it can be avoided.  Almond milk for coffee & wine being notable exceptions.  In the past, once the fresh produce ran out, I became reduced to frozen leftovers & lots & lots of dry, white food – like pasta & rice.  Panicked friends began delivering fresh produce so – to avoid a full-scale panic – I am allowing (as I stated) a 2x monthly delivery of veggies.

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Well – everything was going great – until yesterday.  I had not spent one cent on food since that burger at Carney’s – 8 days before.  But, yesterday, I got bored.  I wanted to cook.  I wanted to post something on this blog.  So – I cheated & allowed myself a stop in the CRAZY inexpensive Thai market – Bangluck.   Shit is practically free in there but I still managed to spend $52.  Here is the bulk of what I got there:

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Those two jars of gluten look like lab specimens but I could not resist.  Each of those cans of varied mock meats are gluten & all cost under $2.  I bought that tofu above for under $2 each – far better than the price at Gelson’s – about a mile away – below.

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Drunk from my misbehavior & shopping orgy – I drove by Sacred Farts.  Yes.  Sacred Farts.

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I Googled it & I guess it is a dance & yoga studio.  Who knew?

Well, my will weakened, I decided to stop by Silom Market – also in Thai Town.  This place is super sketchy and always has a security guard at the front door.  Armed guard to protect bulk spices?  Sorta seems like Silom might be a front for something else – but I digress.   If you go there & decide to buy some of the fresh items they make & sell there – be sure to check ingredients.  By check – I mean GOOGLE.  Let me recount an experience I had there once.

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In the cooler section – they had what seemed to be a large selection of locally produced pre-made sauces & curries & pastes….sold in the lidded plastic containers delis use to sell you potato salad. I looked at a bunch of them, mouth watering as I thought of how authentic my dishes would taste if I used these expertly prepared flavorings.  I saw one that looked dark & spicy & read the ingredients

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Ingredients: Chili, onion, garlic, mangda, sugar, salt, fish, tamarind paste.  It was called Nam Prik Mang-da.  I love prik pao squid at my beloved Torung & this stuff looked like culinary gold.  I didn’t know what mangda was but wrote it off as an obscure name for a common thing – like my recent anise pepper experience.  $5.  Sold!

Upon closer inspection – I see these curries/pastes are made in-house at Silom!

When I got home – I Googled the name of the chili paste I just bought looking for culinary inspiration.  I was ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED when the search engine spat out its results.  Here – take a peek and see what MANGDA means – HERE.  Don’t look at the horseshoe crabs.  In fact – here is a stock photo of your garden variety MANGDA:

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Yes, folks.  Mangda means giant water bug!!!!!!  OMG!  I’m gagging just looking at that thing!  And I should have known better.  This isn’t my first time crossing paths with these fuckers.  No!  I pointed them out to you guys in my Bangluck Market post.  You can buy 4 of these guys whole, in the refrigerated section, for $4.49 – and they have 35 calories in the 4 together – 15 of which come from fat.  Yeah – they are nearly 50% fat.  Gag.  Needless to say – I threw the $5 container in the trash and pronto.

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So – I have learned to be a careful label reader in Thai markets.

Anyway – here are some new things I found at Silom:

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It is vegan & it is $5.  It didn’t seem very appetizing so I passed on it.

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 Vegan crispy balls?!  I have no idea what they are but I fucking BOUGHT some!

Then I found fresh, frozen jackfruit but I already had 4 cans from Bangluck – so I passed.

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That is how the stuff is displayed in the freezers at Silom.  I dug into one & pulled out a package almost totally obscured by frost.  I scraped it off & discovered this!

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Vegan strip steak!   And then I found this!

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I was VERY excited by these two discoveries but stopped my impulse to buy the entire stock before I had put them to the taste test.

I also bought keffir lime leaves & some other stuff  (some of the stuff below came from Bangluck):

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So – I dropped another $35.  And – when I got home – I realized I wanted red bell peppers for this beef dish so – I went to Gelson’s.  I had a $5 off a $25 purchase so – of course – I had to spend $25.  I filled my basket with what I guessed would just be $25 but I miscalculated.  It never crossed my mind that two red bell peppers would cost over $6!   I also bought the chorizo below.  Gelson’s has a sorta fun (if very expensive) selection of vegan things.  I bought the chorizo – but here are a few of the other vegan delights they offer.  Anyway – I dropped another $40.  So – there’s that.

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OK!  On to this Vegan Thai Pad Gra Prow – Spicy Beef & Basil – with Wide Rice Noodles!!!  I added fresh noodles that I bought at Bangluck but this would go just as nicely over rice – or in lettuce wraps.  The revelation is this AMAZING S.P.A. vegan beef!  Read that nutrition label above.  Non-GMO soy protein.  This shit is guiltless and looks EXACTLY like slices of steak!  It is pretty innocuous in the flavor department so – like chicken – it kinda just takes on the flavors you add to it. HERE they are on Facebook.  I will DEFINITELY be buying more & more & more of this stuff.   Once my pantry challenge is over.

This dish is very easy & doesn’t use anything especially exotic.  I recommend it very highly!

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Vegan Thai Pad Gra Prow – Spicy Beef & Basil – with Wide Rice Noodles & Bok Choy

SERVES 2 well

INGREDIENTS

A few TBS sesame oil (or olive oil)

7 (or more) ounces vegan beef

12 ounces fresh rice noodles (or cooked pasta or cooked rice)

1/2 red bell pepper – sliced into strips

1/2 small onion – diced

2 jalapenos – diced

2 heads bok choy – cleaned (optional) & chopped a bit

5 garlic cloves – chopped

1 TBS liquid aminos (or soy sauce or tamari) – plus extra

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tsp vegan oyster or mushroom sauce

1 TBS sambal oelek

1/2 tsp agave nectar (or brown sugar)

1 cup basil leaves (I used a mixture of Thai sweet basil & Thai holy basil but any basil will do – Thai ones being preferred)

GARNISH – lime wedges, cilantro

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DIRECTIONS

If using noodles – separate them under cold running water.  If using pasta or rice – cook it & set aside.

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I did not bother to defrost the beef.  It might be easier if you do.  Either way – heat the sesame oil (2 or 3 TBS) in a wok or large saute pan.  Cook the beef until it is seared on both sides.  Set aside.  (I only used 1/2 of the cooked beef in the noodle dish & reserved the rest for another recipe.)  I covered the beef while it cooked to hasted the defrosting.

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In the same pan – add a bit of olive (or sesame) oil & heat it.  Add the red bell pepper, onion & jalapenos.  Saute until soft.  Add all the other ingredients except the garlic & basil (and the garnish).  Heat the noodles & meat through & let the bok choy wilt.  I added a bit of extra liquid aminos here because I thought the dish needed a tad more salt & moisture.  This is your call.  Once the bok choy is wilted & the ingredients are well-combined – stir in the garlic & basil.

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Serve with cilantro & lime wedges!

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