Bikepacking Recipe: Backcountry Pad Thai

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A heartwarming recipe variation for Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles … built specifically for bikepacking overnighters by Chef de la Camp, Tara Alan.

Words and Photos by Tara Alan

This addictively delicious rice noodle dish isn’t even remotely authentic, but to me, it’s the easy-going American cousin of Pad Thai. It never fails to satisfy my hungry belly, especially as the weather warms up and I begin craving dishes that are hearty, but not too rich or heavy. Even better, it’s conveniently made with everyday ingredients that are easy to track down. While it’s ridiculously tasty and satisfying as-is, it also makes a great base for flavorful add-ins. (See my notes below the recipe if you feel like beefing it up!)

I originally wrote this recipe with long-distance tourers in mind for my cookbook, Bike. Camp. Cook. In that version, the peanut sauce is fully assembled at camp. Here, I’ve streamlined the recipe to its simplest state for the overnight bikepacker. Much of the prep-work can be done at home the day before you pedal off, making for a super-speedy camp supper. If you’re the type of person who likes extra seasonings, however, I’d recommend bringing along a small bottle of Sriracha or soy sauce.

  • Prep time at home: 10 minutes
  • Prep time at camp: 10 minutes
  • Packed weight: Approximately 450g (16oz)
  • Total Calories: Approximately 820
  • Servings: 2 ample servings or 1 gargantuan feast

What You Need

  • 3 tablespoons sugar (38g)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (30ML)
  • 4 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (64g)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried chili flakes (6g)
  • 7oz / 200g thin rice noodles
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 scallion (two if they’re skinny)
  • 1 lime
  • water for boiling
  • Sriracha (optional)

What to Do (at home)

Into a small, spill-proof container, measure the sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, and chili flakes. Stir until everything is smoothly incorporated. Cap it, and pack it in your framebag or seat pack with your cooking gear. Measure out your noodles (half of box of Thai Kitchen brand, but watch out, brands vary). Break them in half, and store them in a plastic bag. Pack these in your framebag, too, along with the rest of the ingredients.

Bikepacking Recipe, Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles

What to Do (at camp)

Fill a pot nearly full of water (you’ll need a 1.5 liter pot or larger to hold all the noodles), and cover it with a lid. Light your cookstove, and crank it up to a high heat, setting your pot on the flame. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the stove and take the pot off the heat. Add the noodles and put the lid back on, setting them aside for 8-12 minutes so they can soften. Note: the width of your particular rice noodles will affect the amount of time they’ll need to soak. Taste them to judge their tenderness instead of relying solely on the number of minutes.

Bikepacking Recipe, Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles

As the noodles soften, get out your container of sauce. Mince the shallot and garlic cloves, and chop the scallion. Roll the lime on the ground or between your two hands to release its juices, then cut it in half and set it aside. (You’ll juice it in a minute.)

Bikepacking Recipe, Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles

As you prepare ingredients, remember to keep an eye on the noodles, taste-testing them to determine doneness. When they’re tender and easy to eat but haven’t yet gone gooey, strain out the water.

Now, it’s time to assemble the dish. Toss the shallot, garlic, and chopped scallions straight into the pot of noodles. Add the sauce.

Bikepacking Recipe, Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles

Juice the lime over the noodles (I find the easiest way to do this is to shove a knife or spork into a lime half, and squeeze gently while twisting. Don’t stab yourself!). Stir gently until the noodles are coated in sauce. Devour!

Bikepacking Recipe, Sweet-Spicy Peanut Noodles

Beef it up!

While bearing in mind that the quantity of sauce may have to be increased to coat additional ingredients, here are some options for adding a little more heft to the dish:

  • Add protein, whether it be a packet of chicken meat, a block of extra-firm tofu, cubed and fried, or an egg, scrambled.
  • Try adding veggies! Think spring with asparagus or responsibly harvested ramps (wild leeks!). Broccoli, quickly stir-fried in a glug of olive oil, would make a nice addition. My favorite vegetable, the bitterly delicious gai lan (Chinese broccoli), would be even better. If we’re really gilding the lily, a large handful of beansprouts would be amazing!

ABOUT MY COOKBOOK

Join Tara Alan, avid cook and world bicycle tourist, as she brandishes her spork and takes a stand against dismal camp fare. Featuring an ample how-to section and fifty delectable recipes for the road, Bike. Camp. Cook. is a bicycling tour de force of culinary excellence, sure to satisfy even the hungriest traveler. Get ready to pack your pedal-powered pantry and create delicious, gourmet meals on a one-burner stove! Click here to buy a copy.

Tara Alan is a writer and photographer living in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont with her husband, Tyler Kellen. The pair spent two years cycling through Europe and Asia, and are now in the midst of another big adventure: building an off-grid homestead. They journal about their experiences at www.goingslowly.com.

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  • Don Nolan

    Thanks for the recipe! protein rich peanut butter is usually in my bag, rice noodles use less fuel, soy, sugar and sirracha pkts, ?? And yes I might even use responsible foraged goods,
    BP.com
    Enjoy the well written articles, reviews , routes

  • Mark Reimer

    Great article, this will be an awesome replacement to the freeze-dried pad thai I often take. Never thought of the fact that rice noodles would use less fuel, A+! Personally I’d omit the sugar, but that’s a personal taste difference I suppose. Some firm tofu and sriracha, mmm!

  • Mark Reimer

    Well, made this last weekend on a 2-day overnighter. Fried some tofu first, then set it aside so I could use the pot for boiling water. I did pretty much everything as described, minus the sugar, and it was fantastic. It made quite a lot of food, enough to share with my riding pals. Everyone agreed, A+. Highly recommended!

  • TaraAlan

    Hi Mark, I’m so glad you enjoyed the ‘pad thai’! I love that you added tofu and changed up the recipe to suit your tastes. I hope you enjoy my other recipes as well. Happy bike camp cooking! :)

  • TaraAlan

    Awesome! Hope you enjoy it! :D

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