I‘m taking off the gloves for this little ditty about Pad Thai. I’m not even going to feign being polite. I’m going to sneeeeer at the Pad Thai you eat in the U.S. (or anywhere in world except Thailand).
If you’ve never eaten Pad Thai in Thailand (sorry the beach cities don’t count), then you’ve never eaten Pad Thai. Yeah, yeah I know…”the little Thai restaurant in Padookaville, USA that you always go to makes the best Pad Thai ever”. No it doesn’t! In fact, your favorite Thai restaurant probably makes a horrid, disgusting Pad Thai that’s all but inedible to true lovers of this Thai staple.
Good Pad Thai noodles are gooooooooey and chewwwwwwy-NOT at all like noodles in Italian cooking. Good Pad Thai is made with FRESH tamarind paste and a good STINKY fish sauce. Good Pad Thai has bean sprouts, peanuts (peanut allergy?-then order something else.), bits of tofu, little shrimpers, maybe some chicken, pieces of brocolli stalks, maybe some thin carrot pieces. The list can be endless as to what goes into Pad Thai. Good Pad Thai is served with a lime wedge and a couple of long onions, maybe a piece of lemongrass for garnish.
Good Pad Thai is either topped with a delicate egg crepe or wrapped in an egg crepe. Scrambling an egg into the Pad Thai is a complete failure. Skipping the egg completely is an insult to Thai cuisine.
Good Pad Thai is not too spicy when served. You add the heat to your liking from the traditional condiment jars on the table. (Your great Thai restaurant in Padookaville, USA doesn’t have condiment jars on every table??? Get up and leave immediately.) When served, mix up the Pad Thai with a spoon and fork, season to liking, and start eating.
Pad Thai is a single wok dish. Good Pad Thai chefs can handle their wok like an artist. Good Pad Thai is somewhat of a speciality dish because of all the ingredients that go into it. Good Pad Thai comes from good chefs who specialize in the dish and have a deep understanding of its delicate blending of seasonings. Good Pad Thai will never come from a restaurant that tries to be all Thai things to all people.
So there you have it. My true feelings about this wonderful dish. And one more point if I may condescend a little further-Don’t order Pad Thai if you’re having DINNER with a group of friends. Pad Thai is not a good plate to share. It’s best for lunch so you can eat it all by yourself. And don’t talk to me-I’m eating!