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Thailand’s national dish can be cloying and gloppy only when poorly made. It’s more of a comfort food than a delicacy... and here are some places that do it justice.
Pad thai may be Thailand’s single most famous culinary creation, but it’s also one of its most misunderstood and misrepresented. For starters, few people realize that this dish, which is now all but synonymous with Thailand, is actually a relatively recent invention that has its roots in Chinese cuisine. During a period of heavy nationalism in the 1940s, Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram decided that the country needed a dish to call its own. Local cooks customised the stir-fried noodles, or kway teow, brought over by southern Chinese immigrants, with a typically Thai sweet, spicy, sour, savoury flavour profile. When made correctly, these addictive noodles sing with a riot of tastes and textures. Sadly, the dish hasn’t always translated well as it’s circumnavigated the globe. Chefs abroad have been known to churn out inferior versions loaded up with sugar and unorthodox additions like ketchup. To experience pad thai the way it was meant to taste, try these authentic eateries.
Often known simply as Pad Thai Pratu Phi, or as “Ghost Gate Pad Thai” to locals, this iconic shophouse has been whipping up superior plates of noodles topped with massive river prawns and cradled in delicate egg omelettes for decades. Regulars patiently queue for up to an hour, knowing all the while that the wait is well worth it. While you’re in the neighbourhood, consider stopping at Raan Jay Fai the luscious crab curry.
Almost as famous as Thip Samai is this cosy street stand up in Ari. Portions come with satisfyingly smoky undertones from the blazing hot wok, along with a precisely balanced mix of ingredients. Best of all, it’s right near the BTS Skytrain Station – making a quick bite all but irresistible.
Many of the best pad thai spots in town are barebones shophouses, but this upscale spin from the powerhouse restaurant team behind Issaya Siamese Club and Namsaah Bottling Trust takes things up a notch. Prices are a bit steeper than your standard street spot, but the extra baht will buy you premium ingredients like duck eggs, crab fat, house-made dried shrimp, Chanthaburi noodles, and a secret sauce containing no fewer than 18 ingredients.
Try Pad Thai with River Prawns from ‘Pad Thai Savoey’ from Street Food zone at Eathai (to experience the spirit of Thailand during a hard shopping session at Central Embassy). The dish is well known for its multi-dimensional flavour from various ingredients including egg, tofu, bean sprout, prawns & picked radish. Take a bit and you’ll finish the whole dish before you even realised.