Pad thai, or phad thai (pronounced /ˌpɑːd ˈtaɪ/; Thai: ผัดไทย), is a fishy Thai food dish that can be found throughout Thailand, especially in Central Thailand, and in many Thai restaurants in foreign countries.
What is in a pad thai?
Pad thai is made with soaked dried small-lined rice noodles, which are stir-fried on big fire with eggs, tamarind sauce, yellow tofu, chopped dried radishes, and fresh or dried shrimp. Pad thai is usually served with raw banana flowers, fresh garlic chives, and fresh bean sprouts. And up to the eater’s taste, several condiments such as chili, fish sauce, garlic, fresh shallots, red chili pepper, lime wedges and palm sugar can be added to the pad thai dish.
Some restaurants may add pork to, or use thick-lined instead of small-lined noodles. Recently, some restaurants invented a new way to make pad thai. They mix all the ingredients together, stir-fry them. Then they use an omelet to wrap the fried mixture, and call the dish as egg-wrapped pad thai.
Pad thai in history
Pad thai is a food that was influenced by Chinese food. At first, this dish was called “fried noodles”, later it was changed to be more of Thai food taste.
Pad thai has become known to foreigners since the era of Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who governed Thailand in the time period of World War II. He appealed people to eat noodles in order to reduce rice consumption in the country. Because of the economic downturn in the country, rice was expensive. He said that:
“I want you, my brothers and sisters, to eat noodles all over, because noodle is beneficial to the body. It is sour, salty, sweet, and you can make it yourselves in Thailand. Noodle is convenient to find, and delicious. If each of our Thai brothers and sisters eats a bowl of noodles everyday, in one day 18 million bowls of noodles will be consumed. The cost of all noodles consumed by Thailand in one day is 900,000 Bahts. This amount of money will be circulated and flow to hands of farmers in the field and peasants in the sea, all over, but not to hands of any single person.”
However, in the nationalist trend in Thailand at this time, noodle was viewed as Chinese food. Hence, noodle was transformed to pad thai, to be a Thai food with Thai tastes.
In early days, pork was not used for pad thai, because it would make pad thai look more like a Chinese food dish. Instead, people used dried shrimps, and also put yellow tofu, lemon, garlic leaves, banana blossom, and bean sprouts to pad thai. These raw materials were easily found in Thailand. The dish name “fried noodles” was also changed to “Pad Thai noodle”, following the new name of the country. Through the time, it has been called simply “Pad Thai“.
Nowadays, pad thai has become one of Thailand’s national dishes.
In Vietnam, there is a similar food to pad thai. It is called “pho xao” (Vietnamese: phở xào, meaning: stir-fried noodles).
In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam, there is also a dish similar to pad thai. It is called Char kway teow, made with flat-lined noodles, shrimps, shellfish, eggs, fish, bean sprouts, and pork sausages. Pig fat oil is used to fry. This dish is wrapped in banana leaves and very popular in Penang, a state in northwest Malaysia.
Pad thai price in 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand
In 2018, a dish of pad thai made with shrimps, wrapped in omelette, served by an average restaurant in Bangkok costs 80 Bahts (equal to 2.4 USD). Price of a larger dish, with more main ingredients like fish and shellfish, is 250 Bahts (equal to 7.6 USD). And a dish of vegetarian pad thai costs only 50 Bahts, or 1.5 USD.
Nutritional value of pad thai
Most of foreigners affirm that pad thai is very delicious. A single dish of Pad Thai provides high energy. You will get protein from hard tofu, egg, dried shrimp, peanuts and bean sprouts in pad thai. Dietary fiber in pad thai is derived from radishes, raw banana flowers and fresh garlic chives. Pad Thai is also found to have high calcium and phosphorus.
From the food that Thais thought up to compete with the Chinese fried noodle, Pad Thai has turned out to be a favorite dish for both Chinese and Thai people. And now Pad Thai is one of the world’s most famous foods.