Sawasdee Torn Chao (good morning) everyone.
It’s not even lunch time but you are already thinking of it, yes, two words. Pad Thai.
Pad means to stir-fry. While in this context, Thai means to be Thai or something that is Thai. But within those two words describing this Thai noodle dish, there’s a loaded history.
Plaek Phibulsongkram, more commonly known internationally as Phibun, was an ultranationalist Thai Marshall, a fan of Italian Facism and arguably the father of Pad Thai.
Phibun assumed power through a coup and the Prime Minister of Thailand from 1938 to 1944. During his time in office, Phibun was responsible for the cultural revolution of Thailand as well as changing the name of Siam to what we know today as Thailand. In fact, the word Thai actually means freedom or to be free. Fearing for the lack of potential contact and trade with foreign nations, he believed that Siam may sound “primitive” and perhaps not “modern” enough to the Western nations. Consequently, he also encouraged the usage of spoon and fork as a replacement for the traditional way of using ones hands. Other cultural reforms included the traditional barefooted way of life, attire, the changing of Thai calendar year and other aspects traditional Thai living were altered to the more hybridized Thai-Western style.
The innovation of the “freedom noodles” can be derived from a few factors. Naturally, the military leader encouraged economic nationalism with anti-Chinese policies. In the support of the protectionism approach, he encouraged Thais to buy and eat Thai products as much as possible. Due to the rice shortage of the time, Phibun wanted promote nationalism and at the same time diversify the Thai population’s primary stable diet of rice. One of his ideas was to create a new national dish that signify the stance of the new Thailand.
Pad Thai’s full name, kwuay tiew Pad Thai may suggest that Pad Thai’s true origins may not be Thai as kwuay tiew in a certain Chinese dialect means rice noodles. Ironically, Phibun’s father was actually of Chinese heritage. According to an unconfirmed tale by Phibun’s son, Pad Thai was in fact a family recipe for stir-fried noodles.
The Thai-ness comes from the additional ingredients of fish sauce, dried shrimp, palm sugar, tamarind juice, beansprouts, preserved turnip, Thai chillies, lime, peanuts and egg.
Nonetheless, Pad Thai’s unique combination of multi-flavours of spicy, sour, sweet and salty in correlation with the delicious juicy rice noodles has become International famous. There is no way you should miss out on this dish while you are in Thailand.
As the concept of Chao Hostel is to reminisce and create an awareness to the authenticity of the Thai way of life, we like recommend the less well known yet fantastic places of hidden away in Thailand.
For great Pad Thai in Bangkok, If you are on your way to the old town, aka, Khao Sarn Road, the Grand Palace (Wat Phra Kaew), Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) or Wat Arun. Be sure to stop by “Pad Thai Nana” on Samsen Road.
This restaurant offers a very rare old school taste of Pad Thai. Much like local restaurants around that area, Pad Thai Nana has been around for many generations and is a favourite to the locals.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, please be sure to say “Pad Thai Jay” when you order. Otherwise We suggest you go for the classic Pad Thai Goong Sod (Fresh Prawns).
If you do not like prawns or dried shrimp, or even worse, allergic to them. Here are a few phrases that will assist you on your journey of delicious Thai food.
“(Pad Thai) Mai sai Goong gub Goong Haeng Krub/Ka” – Please do not add prawns and dried shrimp.
If you want to be sure they are aware of your allergies, please say this in addition to the previous phrase:
“Phae Goong na Krub/Ka” – I am allergic to prawns/shrimp
And of course never fail to be polite to end your sentences with Krub (male) and Ka (female).
Happy tasting guys!
From all of us at Chao Hostel, Sawasdee Krub.