Ludo Lefebvre’s Squid Pad Thai

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Leaf through Ludo Lefebvre’s new cookbook, LudoBites: Recipes And Stories From The Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre, and you’ll understand why the reservations for the entire run of the last incarnation of LudoBites, his pop-up restaurant in Los Angeles, sold out in under a minute: his delight in the sensual pleasure of food is evident in the description of every dish. (Remember his charming kitchen tour, too?) Ludo’s palate is rooted in a love and respect for the cooking, food, flavors and food traditions of his native France. But what launches his food into the stratosphere is his deep-seated curiosity about the world, with each dish a question answered by a taste experience, one that also involves your eyes and your nose.

The best examples of Ludo’s cooking riff on familiar dishes or classic combinations. What if it looked like pasta…but wasn’t? What if your eyes registered a dish as cold but when you popped it in your mouth it was hot? What if you inserted one culture’s flavor palette in another culture’s signature dish or took the idea of a dish and made substitutions?

Breaking a dish down to its essence, he then reconstructs it: the noodles in pad Thai are made of squid, the feta cheese in a Greek salad becomes a mousse. There are echoes of the old dish behind the surprise of something modern, surprising and globally-influenced.

But this isn’t only a book of intriguing recipes that make you rethink the food you eat every day, it’s also the story of how a new concept in restaurants got started. Chronicling Ludo’s journey from France to Los Angeles, from chef at Bastide, the uber-French and uber-expensive Los Angeles restaurant owned by the exacting and capricious Joe Pytka, to running LudoBites, the ephemeral restaurant that appears for a brief few weeks and then vanishes, this book is as much a primer for chefs considering going out on their own as it is a history of a very unique place. I, for one, hope it will stick around long enough so that I’ll actually get to eat there. Certainly if what I made turned out as good as it did, I can only imagine what it tastes like in the hands of its creator. In the meantime, this is a very good substitute.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Quick Facts

Who wrote it: Ludo LeFebvre, with Krissy LeFebvre and J.J. Goode

Who published it: Ecco

Number of recipes: 90 recipes

Recipes for right now: Brocamole, Squid Pad Thai; Salmon, Somen Noodles, Raw Rainbow Carrots; Wild Striped Bass, Fennel Marmalade, Piment d’Espelette; Spicy Chocolate Mousse, Orange Oil; Greek Salad, Feta Mousse; Sallops, Baby Spinach, Curried Yogurt Sauce,

Other highlights: If you’ve always dreamed of owning a restaurant, take notes! This book will give you a glimpse at the behind the scenes from negotiating the lease to deciding to what to cook to dealing with patrons.

Who would enjoy this book? Chefs who are looking for inspiration on ways to put a new spin on their old favorites, anyone who’s ever eaten at LudoBites (or wanted to eat at LudoBites), anyone who’s ever dreamed of owning a restaurant, home cooks who are tired of the same old, same old, working parents who read Melissa Clark, Mark Bittman and Food52.

Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: LudoBites: Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre by Ludo Lefebvre
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Squid Pad Thai

Ludo says: Back at LudoBites 4.0, I fell in love with the idea of gently-cooking squid and using it instead of the pasta in carbonara, in part to delight in people’s initial confusion (“Wait, where’s the squid?”) and in part to witness their conversion to excitement (“Wait, this is squid!”). Yet this is LudoBites, so I didn’t want to do carbonara again. Why not put to use my love of pad Thai? My version — deconstructed, reimagined, and refined — hits all the notes that make the original such a pleasure to eat.

Serves 4

Peanut Compound Butter
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup toasted peanuts
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and tender inner part thinly sliced
1 fresh lime leaf, very finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh galangal
3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
a couple drops of pure coconut extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Spicy Tofu Puree
4 ounces firm tofu, cubed
1/4 cup whole milk
2 dried Thai bird chiles, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
Kosher salt

Pad Thai Salad
12 seedless red grapes, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts, washed
1/2 cup thinly julienned peeled black radish
2 green onions, thinly sliced on a sharp bias
4 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide pieces
2 teaspoons peanut oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

2 tablespoons clarified butter or peanut oil
12 cleaned squid bodies, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Ground dried Thai bird chiles for garnish (optional)

To make the peanut compound butter
Put the garlic in a small saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring the water to a boil; drain. Repeat 2 more times.

Put the garlic in a small bowl and add the white wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 3 weeks.

Drain the garlic and add it to a food processor, along with the peanuts, lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal, ginger, peanut oil, coriander, cumin, and coconut extract.

Process to a paste, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping the bowl. Gradually blend in the butter.

To make the tofu puree
Blend the tofu, milk, and chiles in a blender until smooth. With the blender running on medium-high speed, slowly stream the xanthan gum into the vortex. Increase the
speed as needed to maintain the vortex and continue to blend until no vortex appears
on high speed. Season to taste with salt. transfer the tofu puree to a container,
cover, and refrigerate until cold, or for up to 1 week.

Just before serving, make the salad: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss well.

To prepare the squid
Melt the clarified butter in a heavy large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the squid,
season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the squid begins to turn opaque, about 45 seconds. Add 6 tablespoons of the peanut compound butter and toss until the butter melts and coats the squid, about 2 minutes.

To serve
Divide the squid and peanut sauce among four rimmed soup bowls. Top each with
a mound of the salad. Using a small metal spoon, scrape about 1 tablespoon of the
tofu puree onto the rim of each bowl. If desired, garnish the rims of the bowls with a
light sprinkling of ground thai chile.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Related: Chef Ludo’s Magically Delicious Kitchen

(Images: Anne Fishbein; Wesley Wong of EatsMeetsWes, Squid Pad Thai by Kevin Eats)