Elvis Presley Meets Tofu Pad Thai at Nage
I'm not sure if Elvis Presley would have been a fan of Meatless Mondays — the movement to abstain from animal proteins one day a week for a healthier population and planet — but I have a feeling he'd like this peanut butter and banana dish.
The King's most famous (only?) nod to vegetarianism was his grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches (even though there are variations of the bite with crispy bacon). A year ago, Nage, situated in the Marriott Courtyard Embassy Row on Scott Circle, hosted an Elvis Week Special that included the above sandwich plus other Memphis specialties, such as Priscilla's chicken and waffles. While the commemorative week didn't return this year, it must have been in chef and owner Glenn Babcock's subconscious.
Babcock's tempura tofu pad Thai with rice noodles, peanut sauce, red bell pepper, maitakes, English peas, and banana chips is a star on the Meatless Monday menu.
The peanut sauce radiates a nice heat from roasted red finger chilies. But for home cooks, Babcock recommends stirring Sriracha into a peanut sauce for a similar effect.
Tofu receives flavor treatment from a garlic oil marinade and is then dusted with flour, splattered in a tempura batter, and quickly fried to create a creamy inside and a textured outside.
Elvis' homage comes into play with the substitution of banana chips instead of the requisite chopped peanuts. When Babcock sat down to create the dish he thought, "What can we do instead of peanuts to add sweetness?"
Dehydrated bananas play that role, lending a contrasting snap to the creamy peanut butter. Unfortunately, Elvis had nothing to do with it. But Babcock knows the promotion business: "In no way was this an homage. Although if we could get more media coverage, we'd play it up as Elvis Pad Thai."
Chef, I think you found an angle.
Photos courtesy of ThreeLockharts Communications and Nage