Thailand is one of my favorite places to visit due to the beauty of the land, people and culture. Every time we have been to Thailand, we were left with a blissful memory of how crystal clear the beaches were, fresh, unique and inexpensive the food was and how friendly and easy-going the people were. It is really hard to find anything we dislike about Thailand.
One of the dishes you can easily find at any food cart in Bangkok is Pad Thai. We find out the reason why when we explore the history of Pad Thai. According to this Wikipedia article on Pad Thai, there was a concerted effort by the government to westernize the Kingdom of Siam, and have an identity separate from China. As Thailand's Prime Minister from 1938 to 1944 and from 1948 to 1957, Plaek Phibunsongkhram wanted a westernized Thailand. In 1939 he changed the name of the country from Siam to Thailand. In that time noodles were very popular in Thailand, but Plaek Phibunsongkhram wanted to get rid of everything that came from China. One thing he could not get rid of was the noodle. The government had an idea to create a new kind of food to replace the Chinese noodle and establish the identity of Thailand. As a result a new noodle named "Sen-Chan" was created. The noodle is suitable to be stir-fried in a pan, and this Thai noodle was called "Pad Thai".
In this article by Gastronomica, they go on to explain how it became so mainstream and popular on the streets of Bangkok, and in restaurants all over the world. “To help popularize the new noodle dish, the government supplied people with a basic recipe for pad Thai, then encouraged vendors to make use of wheeled noodle carts—like mobile cook stalls equipped with a heat source and compartments to hold ingredients and cooking utensils—to sell the dish on Bangkok’s streets. Because the carts could move easily, pad Thai became a convenience food. It may be the original fast food in Thailand, Pibulsonggram notes. The dish became a lunchtime favorite, a Thai stir-fry that provided an alternative to a bowl of Chinese noodles.”
So, how to make an authentic, tasty pad thai? Here is an excellent recipe courtesy of the Elephant Hills, that has worked for me, and is easy enough but still maintains authentic flavors.
The Gastronomica article also comes with a very complete recipe including how to make pad thai sauce from scratch. If you have an Asian Supermarket nearby, you will have no problem getting all the ingredients together to make an authentic pad Thai!! Enjoy!
- Yumi Zaic, photo by bon appetit