Crispy Pork with Palmini Stir Fry Noodles and Peanut Sauce

In this post, I experiment with palmini noodles — a vegetable product made out of hearts of palm (see my review here) and whey isolate to create a crispy pork dish low in sugar and carbs–served with a peanut sauce that uses Swerve instead of sugar to balance flavors. I amp up the flavor a bit with PB2 powder. The ingredient list is long but the flavor is exceptional.

My search for keto phad thai

I can actually make authentic phad thai in all its sugary goodness. It’s a carb nightmare. The rice noodles alone are 21 carbs for a mere three ounces. The other ingredients of an authentic sauce (like this one) include a healthy dose of sugar: palm sugar and tamarind paste. Palm sugar and regular sugar are about the same in terms of carbs (4g) — and tamarind paste is 3 g carbohydrate per ounce. But it’s the rice noodles that are killer.

Keto phad thai recipes substitute low-sugar ketchup for tamarind paste, which is hard to find. It’s….okay? I guess? Frankly, the ketchup based recipes are at best, so-so. I’ve tried to make tamarind paste from frozen tamarind fruit but so far the results are ghastly.

Going through the keto phad thai recipes, I saw quite a number using peanut butter. Here, I think there is some confusion about what phad thai actually is supposed to taste like. I’ve never seen peanut butter as an ingredient in any authentic phad thai sauce. Peanut butter is a key ingredient in peanut sauce, and peanut noodles are very good–these recipes seem to be some kind of mashup of phad thai and peanut noodles. So hmmmm. A peanut noodle dish is probably easier than continuing to struggle with phad thai. Maybe keto phad thai is something I could work up to over time –but for now, I’m hungry!

Palmini Noodles as a Swap for Rice Noodles Totally Works

At 2 net carbs per serving (serving size is about 2 ounces), palmini liguine (noodles) save this dish entirely as a keto meal. They need to be prepared according to the package–and that is a fiddly process.

  • RINSE the noodles thoroughly after getting them out of the package or can.
  • SOAK the noodles in milk for 20 minutes
  • BOIL the noodles for 10 minutes

And then you’ll get a great soft-textured noodle that soaks up sauce flavors like a rice noodle and can be stir fried rapidly in ghee or coconut oil (flavored with garlic, pepper and whatever other flavors please you).

Other Weird Ingredient Swaps in this Recipe

Whey protein isolate is a a carb-friendly substitute for AP flour. It was recommended in one of the keto groups, touted for making “the best”keto pancakes. In recipes around the Internet and in keto cookbooks, whey isolate is routinely used in “low carb baking mixes.” Two tablespoons have 1 carb. Compare that with AP flour’s 21.5 carbs for 1/4 of a cup and you can see the savings. It can be used as a thickening agent or as a breading–there are a number of keto fried chicken recipes out there that use whey protein isolate instead of flour.

PB2 powder is a keto friendly substitute for peanut butter. In this recipe, I do use 2 tablespoons of basic JIF peanut butter (6 net carbs for the entire recipe). But it didn’t have enough peanut flavor. Instead of adding more regular peanut butter, I amped up the peanut flavor with 2 tablespoons of PB2 powder, for 3 net grams of carbs. Half the carbs is a considerable savings–next time, I will forego the JIF entirely and just use the PB2 powder! I found this at Walmart and Giant. It’s great for flavoring things like whipped cream or cream cheese–the cream cheese gives it a bit of a tang.

This recipe is still a work in progress but man, it was certainly tasty. There are lots of “substitutes” in this list. I’m still tweaking this.

The Recipe

The Ingredients

The essentials
Two to four thin loin pork chops, cut into about 8 strips each
You could also use chicken thighs, also cut into strips
2-3 tablespoons of wheat protein isolate (for coating)
Salt and pepper
Palmini brand palm heart linguine (2 ounces per person)

The Sauce
1 can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of PB2 powder
2 tablespoons peanut butter
(You can substitute 2 additional tablespoons of PB2 powder)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon of Swerve
1 tablespoon garlic paste (or 1 minced clove of garlic, maybe 2)
1 tablespoon of Frontera chili adobe paste (or Sriracha sauce)
1 tablespoon lime juice (about 1/4 to 1/2 fresh lime, squeezed–a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or other fruit vinegar can be substituted.)
1 tablespoon of ginger paste or grated fresh ginger (optional)

I typically also put about a tablespoon of garlic paste in the cooking oil or ghee for flavor. You can easily use less (or none) in this recipe. You can also substitute 3 minced cloves for the garlic paste.

The Veggies

I like broccolini, red pepper, and chopped onions for this dish. Broccolini can be hard to find. Chopped broccoli or zucchini slices go well with this instead. I’m also a big fan of sliced mushrooms (about 3 or 4) in this dish, mushrooms are totally optional. About 1 to 2 cups of chopped vegetables, and a quarter chopped onion were used in making the dish pictured.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the noodles. 
Rinse the palmini noodles well in water: put them in a sieve and rinse well under a running tap. Then, put the noodles in a bowl and cover the noodles with milk. Set aside — letting them soak for 20 minutes while you get everything else ready.

Step 2. Prepare the pork.
Cut the center loin pork chops into half inch strips. Salt and pepper the pork.

Put 2 tablespoons of whey protein isolate on a plate. Dredge the pork in the whey protein isolate, rolling them around in the powder into they’re coated on all sides. Set the pork aside.

Note: I used four pork chops — but it was really a great deal of meat. I think this recipe would do well with two or three pork chops instead. I have a 6 foot five inch tall teenaged son whose appetite is the stuff of legends. This filled both of us up very well. He got more meat, I got more veggies.

Here you can see how I cut the pork into strips. I got about 8 strips per pork chops. It was MORE than enough for two people! But I have a teenaged son whose appetite is epic.

Step 3. Prepare the vegetables.  If you haven’t already done so, dice the onions, mince the garlic (unless you’re using paste), cut up the red peppers and brocollini or zucchini into small pieces. Chop the mushrooms (if using). Set aside.

Step 4: Prepare the peanut sauce.  Empty a can of coconut milk into a sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and two tablespoons PB2 powder. Bring up the heat to about medium heat so that the sauce simmers. Add the garlic paste (or minced garlic). Stir. Add Swerve (about a tablespoon). Taste. Adjust to your liking. (I sometimes add ginger paste to this, too).

Peanut sauce really requires that you taste the recipe frequently as you go along. The proportions here will give you a slightly spicy, slightly garlicky sauce with a good zing — but people’s tolerance to heat is very hard to measure. I used Frontera band chipotle adobo chili paste as I like the smoky heat of it–and it is a little bit lower in carbs than Sriracha sauce. If you use sriracha sauce, you can hold back more on the garlic, since sriracha is chili and garlic (and sugar).

Be careful. I add chili pastes a teaspoon at a time, checking and tasting as I go along as these flavors are powerful. It’s easy to ruin this sauce with too much spice.

Let the sauce reduce. It should be a medium brown color and reasonably thick. This will mean cooking it over medium heat, stirring occasionally for five to seven minutes.

Step 5. Heat up the wok or skillet and cook the pork. Add oil or ghee to the pan, along with onions, garlic and ginger (if using)–and add the pork to the sizzling hot oil. Add a sprinkle of soy sauce for flavor. When the pork is cooked, take the pork (and browned onions) out of the pan and put it on a plate or bowl. Set aside.

Step 6. After removing the pork, stir fry the vegetables. Start with red peppers, broccoli and or zucchini, then, a bit later, add the chopped mushrooms (if using) cooking them until they’re getting a bit soft and just cooked through.

Step 7. Stir fry the prepared noodles (from step 1) with the vegetables in the wok or skillet. Add a teaspoon or two of lime juice or vinegar. Combine them well. Stir fry the noodles so that they become coated with the oil from them pan. Add cashews or peanuts.

Step 8. Return the pork to the pan and reheat the pork.

Step 9. Serve the noodles, pork and vegetables on a plate (or in a bowl). Taste the sauce. Adjust seasons if needed.

 Cover the pork and vegetables with a about a half cup of sauce.  Mix it up. Squeeze additional lime juice over the whole plate and enjoy.

Here’s the dish right before I poured the peanut sauce on it.

The Results

The wheat protein isolate was just as good at creating a crisp texture for the pork as wheat flour–and my son made no comment on it. (He notices EVERYTHING). I’ll be exploring this more as a food coating. It seems to have promise for fried chicken and fried pork chops

The palmini noodles worked very well. Personally, I find that preparing rice noodles can be even more annoying than palmini noodles. Rice noodles ALSO need to be soaked in hot water for at least an hour — preferably a couple of hours. They’re a tangled mess and its hard to make less than the entire package without getting broken rice noodles everywhere. Palmini noodles were much easier to deal with EVEN WITH all the prep steps. And my son thought they were just fine. I liked them better than rice noodles in this dish.

PB2 was such a big help to upping the flavor with lower carbs that next time, I don’t plan to use actual peanut butter at all.

Carby Facts

I figure my values this way for the ENTIRE recipe, which served two people

PB2 (2 tablespoons) 3 net carbs
Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) 6 net carbs
Palmini noodles (4 oz) 4 net carbs
1 tablespoon whey protein isolate: 1 net carb
Veggies:
Red peppers 2 carbs
Onions 3 net carbs
Brocollini 3 net carbs
Mushroom 2 net carbs

Sri Racha has sugar in it, so it might add a carb or two. Frontera Chipotle Chili Adobe sauce has less than a gram of carbohydrate per tablespoon.

These maybe a bit over–and that comes out to around 12 net carbs per serving, total.

More soon on palmini noodles. I just ordered a case.

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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