Pad Thai—you guessed it—is a Thai dish. Rice noodles are stir-fried in a salty, tangy sauce and tossed with fresh and crunchy ingredients. What I love most about this dish is its balance of flavors and textures. Pad Thai deliciously incorporates all five basic tastes: sweet palm sugar, sour tamarind, bitter bean sprouts, and salty and savory fish sauce. The protein is your choice, and there are plenty of wild game options.
I owe the idea of using pheasant to my friend April Goettle. She and I went pheasant hunting several years ago and, after coming off the field, I asked her what she would do with her birds. She said that pheasant pad Thai was in order, and from that moment on I couldn’t get this dish out of my head. Here’s my wild game version of this Thai favorite.
2 pheasant breasts
5 oz. firm tofu
10 oz. of uncooked thick-size rice noodles
6 tbsp. palm sugar, packed (or packed light brown sugar)
7 tbsp. water, plus extra
¼ cup tamarind concentrate paste
¼ cup fish sauce
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
10-15 garlic chive stems, cut into 2-inch sections
Large handful of raw bean sprouts
Sambal Oelek chili paste, to taste
Crushed peanuts, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
1/3 cup of vegetable oil, divided
- Soak noodles in room temperature water for 1 hour. Place the tofu between several sheets of paper towels on a plate, and then place a heavy plate on top. Let the tofu sit for 30 minutes to squeeze out moisture.
- Palm sugar will be in the form of blocks. To use it, shave off thin flakes with a knife. To make the sauce, combine palm sugar, water, tamarind paste, and fish sauce in a saucepan. Heat it until the sugar dissolves completely, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust to your liking—all flavors should taste-balanced. If you find the sauce too sweet or salty, add more tamarind. Too sour, add more palm sugar. Remember that you will serve the pad Thai with lime wedges on the side later. Set sauce aside until ready to use.
- Cut pheasant and tofu into bite-sized pieces and season with salt. Over medium-high heat, coat the bottom of a wok or sauté pan with oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the tofu in one layer and leave undisturbed until golden, and then flip and brown the other side. Transfer browned tofu to a plate or bowl, and then brown the pheasant. Add more oil as necessary.
- Add the rest of the oil to the pan, and then sauté the shallots and garlic until fragrant, or about 1 minute. Adjust heat as necessary—do not let the garlic burn. Then add pad Thai sauce and drained noodles, and simmer until sauce is absorbed, stirring frequently. Taste to see if noodles have softened—preferably al dente. If noodles are still hard, add a splash or two of water and continue to simmer to your liking. Do not add too much water or the noodles will become mushy.
- Push cooked noodles to the side of the pan, then add eggs and scramble. Add the cooked pheasant, tofu, garlic chives, bean sprouts, and chili paste to the noodles. Toss everything until heated through, and then turn off heat. Add more oil if the noodles look dry and clumped together. Season to taste. Serve immediately with crushed peanuts on top and lime wedges on the side.