What Is Pad Thai? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
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What Is Pad Thai? 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

It’s seldom that Google chooses a food stuff as a doodle, so that means November 7 is a day to celebrate. Why not celebrate with some Pad Thai? The doodle shows a happy bunch of letters that are clearly about to make some delicious Pad Thai. The O has a spoon while the second G runs to the E as the E is the one with the cookbook.

The famed dish began life as a street food in Thailand during World War II while rice shortages were short and the government began encouraging citizens to eat noodles. Since then, the dish has gone from strength to strength.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. It Was Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram Who Used the Dish to Foster National Identity in Thailand

Plaek Phibunsongkhram Wikipedia

WikipediaField Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram was the third prime minister of Thailand.

Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram was Thailand’s third prime minister and served his first term during World War II in the years of 1938 until 1944. He would serve again in 1948 until 1957. With rice shortages generated during the war, Phibunsongkhram used this problem to promote a national dish, Pad Thai. A standard recipe was supplied to Thai citizens and street vendors were encouraged.

Anthropologist Penny Van Esterik wrote in the book Materializing Thailand, via Eater, “[Phibunsongkhram’s] series of decrees from 1939-1942 suggested what could be done to strengthen the Thai economy, to instill national image and pride – and to improve the national diet. Popularizing a noodle dish was one means to that end.”


2. If You Want to Make Good Pad Thai; a Large Pan Is Key

A Guardian feature on the dish gave a “large, flat pan for optimal results.” That same feature recommends that prospective Pad Thai chefs read She Simmers, a blog started by Leela Punyaratabandhu.

There are obviously thousands of different recipes to making Pad Thai out there. Chef Jet Tilla told Eater about his version saying, “My family was among the first to introduce this dish to America over 40 years ago, and the American version differs slightly from the native one. The super bright orange was accentuated with paprika instead of the traditional of chili paste to give it a slight tint. And we typically finish this dish with garlic chives versus green onions.”

According to the Atlantic, there are two million Google search recipes for the dish.

Gastromonica says that it was the mixture of ingredients that has helped Pad Thai become the most popular Thai dish worldwide. Chef and Thailand native Nick Srisawat told the website, “Whenever we try Thai food. We try Pad Thai first, because that is a way to judge how good a restaurant is.”


3. Unsurprisingly, Experts Say the Best Pad Thai Is to be Found on the Streets of Bangkok

Pad Thai Recipe

GettyA group of Thai chefs attempting to break the world record for the largest bowl of Pad Thai ever in 2004.

Not surprisingly, many experts believe that the best Pad Thai can be found on the streets of Bangkok. The Guardian mentioned Pad Thai Thip Samai in central part of the Thai capital as one place that was a must see. Though the newspaper noted that long lines that hungry customers can sometimes face. While Gastronomica notes, “many restaurants choose not to compete with the street-food vendors, who make and serve only pad Thai all day long and thus have perfected the recipe.”


4. The Dish Has Even Played a Key Role in a Popular Thai Comedy Movie

In 2004, Pad Thai played a central role in the popular Thai comedy, Jao saao Pad Thai. The movie centers around Petchara, a talented chef who specializes in making Pad Thai. When her younger sister pesters her to get married, Petchara says she’ll marry whoever can eat her dish every day for 100 days. The challenge ends up becoming a part of a reality TV show that pits a crowd favorite handsome professor against her next door neighbor.


5. There’s Dispute as to Whether the Dish is Vietnamese or Chinese in Origin

Though the dish is obviously synonymous with Thailand, the exact etymology of the dish is little harder to track. Gastronomica says that it was Chinese travelers who brought the dish to the country. Although there are Vietnamese settlers who contest that version of history.

Pricenomics says the roots of Pad Thai are Chinese because the original name of the dish was “kway teow phat Thai.” Which means rice noodles in a Chinese dialect.

Nonetheless, Pad Thai is now the national dish of Thailand.

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