Pad Thai: Food History
What is Pad Thai?
Pad thai is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and is flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar and served with lime wedges and often chopped roasted peanuts. It may contain other vegetables like bean sprouts, garlic chives, pickled radishes or turnips, and raw banana flowers. It may also contain fresh shrimp, crab, squid, chicken or other animal products. Many of the ingredients are provided on the side as condiments such as the red chili pepper, lime wedges, roasted peanuts, bean sprouts and other miscellaneous fresh vegetables. Vegetarian versions may substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce and omit the shrimp.
Where did it come from?
A dish of stir-fried rice noodles is thought by some to have been introduced to Ayutthaya during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom by Chinese traders and subsequently altered to reflect Thai flavor profiles.
During World War II, Thailand suffered a rice shortage due to the war and floods. To reduce domestic rice consumption, the Thai government under Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram promoted eating noodles instead. His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle called sen chan (named after Chanthaburi Province) was created. Pad thai has since become one of Thailand's national dishes. Today, some food vendors add pork or chicken (although the original recipe did not contain pork because of the government's perception that pork was a Chinese meat). Some food vendors still use the original recipe.