Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to visit. I love the energy of the city. And the food… oh! The food. There are so many amazing restaurants that have vegan-specific menus which offer more than just lettuce. Steve Wynn, for example, went vegan several years ago and hired a chef to create gourmet-quality vegan menus at every single restaurant at Wynn and Encore. As a result, these destinations have become something of a Mecca within the vegan community. From the vegan Bolognese sauce at Terrace Point Cafe to the dumplings and sushi rolls at Wazuzu… it’s a good time to be a vegan.
But on the other side of the strip, tucked away on the 3rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental at City Center is MOzen Bisrto which has, in my opinion, the finest vegan menu I have ever seen. No, the menu is not large or overly creative (there’s only 3 dinner entrees), but the food is exactly what I love: it’s simple and polished with expertly developed flavors. It’s pure artwork. If you’re ever in Las Vegas, add this spot to your list of must-visit restaurants.
The pad Thai on their menu was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. After I took the first bite, my only thought was, “I’ve got to steal this.” It was so good, I just wanted to make it for myself every day. As I ate the dish, I made mental notes about the ingredients and flavors. What we have below is a pad Thai that I created based on my memories of the one at MOzen. No, it’s not as good (that would be impossible) but this could be the world’s second best pad Thai.
Makes 3-4 servings
Pad Thai Sauce Recipe
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 1+ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 sheet nori/seaweed (optional)
The perfect pad Thai sauce should hit your tongue with notes of sweetness, then acidity, and then spiciness in that order. This sauce does a great job of developing those flavors. Simply combine all the ingredients (except the seaweed) into a saucepan and warm on low heat. It doesn’t need to be cooked, just warmed to incorporate all the flavors.
Finally, you can optionally add a sheet of seaweed into the sauce for 30 seconds to give it a mildly fishy flavor. Traditional pad Thai requires fish sauce, which is obviously out of the question for a plant-based version. But adding seaweed is a perfect substitute. It doesn’t take long, though, simply dip the sheet into the sauce until it wilts, then remove and discard it.
This sauce can easily be made ahead of time and it keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.
Pad Thai Recipe
- Pad Thai rice noodles (8-10 oz.)
- 8-12 asparagus
- 2 carrots
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 yellow summer squash
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 2-3 green onions
- 8 oz tofu
- 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2-3 limes
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- Crushed peanuts
- Pad Thai sauce (above)
Step One: The Veggies
Begin heating a large pot of water for the rice noodles. Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables into rounds. For the asparagus, cut off the tips and use them whole, but thinly slice the stalks (much like you would a green onion). Heat a wok or large skillet for the vegetables with one tablespoon of peanut oil and begin stir frying them over medium heat.
Step Two: The Tofu
Heat a smaller skillet with another tablespoon of peanut oil for the tofu. While the pan is warming, slice the tofu into 1/4 inch squares and use paper towels to thoroughly squeeze out all remaining water. (see my How to Cook Tofu tutorial for more info on properly cooking tofu). Then, slice these squares into thin strips and add them to the hot skillet to brown.
Step Three: The Noodles
When the pot of water for the rice noodles is boiling, remove it from the heat and add the noodles. They should take only about 5 minutes to cook in the hot water. When they’re becoming soft, drain the water and add the rice noodles into the wok with the veggies. Pour in the pad Thai sauce and the golden tofu. Toss everything together and let the flavors mingle for about 5 minutes.
Step Four: The Finish
When everything is coming together in the wok, squeeze the juice of 1-2 limes over the top and add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, toss again, and transfer to serving plates/bowls. Sprinkle peanuts over the top of the bowls, add a sprig of cilantro, and garnish with more bean sprouts and a lime wedge.