According to Southeast BackPacker Pad Thai is made from rice noodles, stir-fried with eggs, tofu, tamarind paste, fish sauce, dried shrimps, garlic, palm sugar, and red chili pepper and frequently served with lime wedges, bamboo shoots, spring onions, raw banana flowers, and topped with sprinkling peanuts.
It’s always good, very cheap to eat and a favorite of both locals and tourists.
The original name of Pad Thai is ‘Gway Teow Pad Thai. Gway Teow is a Chinese word for ‘rice noodles’, which hints at a Chinese influence. Some people believe that a similar creation to Pad Thai was brought to the Ayutthaya Kingdom by Chinese Traders in the 1700s. The rest of the name offers even more clues… ‘Pad’ means ‘fried’ and ‘Thai’, of course, means Thai (as in Thai style). Fried Thai? What’s that all about?
During World War II, Thailand suffered a shortage of rice due to less production in the rice fields, which coincided with bad flooding. In order to preserve the stocks of this precious grain, the Thai government (under Prime Minister and Military Dictator, Plaek Phibunsonghram) started to promote noodles instead of its people. Noodles used only 50% of the grain, so were more economical and cheaper to produce.
The government of Thailand created the dish ‘Pad Thai’, in a bid to protect the rice resources of the country. They told the general public that by eating Pad Thai, they were helping their country. At the same time, ‘Phibun’ also wanted to improve the variety of the Thai diet, by encouraging people to eat noodles instead of rice, as well as promoting unity and a sense of national identity across the kingdom by creating a national dish that everyone would love.
(Some resources say that there was actually a national competition to create a national dish, of which Pad Thai was the winner!).
Pad Thai was promoted heavily up and down the country with the campaign slogan of the government“noodle is your lunch”. The Public Welfare Department gave out recipes of the dish to restaurants and even gave free carts to people willing to sell Pad Thai in the streets. Meanwhile, other types of foreign and Chinese street vendors were banned from selling.
200 g / 7 oz wide rice noodles
2 tbsp peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil)
2 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 hot red chili, finely sliced
2 carrots, shaved into ribbons with a speed peeler
a large handful of green beans, cut diagonally
½ small broccoli, divided into florets
1 red pepper, finely sliced
¼ cup roasted & unsalted peanuts pounded in a pestle & mortar
½ cup mung bean sprouts
fresh coriander, to garnish
5 tbsp tamarind sauce*
2-3 tbsp maple syrup, adjust to taste
Prepare rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet, but do not cook them fully as you’ll give them another minute or two in the wok after. After you immerse them in soaking water, lift the lid and give the noodles a good stir to prevent them from clumping together and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Give them another good stir halfway through the soaking time.
Once the time is up, drain the noodles and set aside. You may want to stir a little bit of oil through them to prevent them from sticking together but I do not find this necessary.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. If you are using a shop-bought tamarind puree/paste, go easy on it at first as it is apparently more concentrated (and therefore sourer) than if you make your paste from a tamarind block (see notes) yourself.
Heat up a wok or a large frying pan. Pour 1 tbsp of oil and heat it up until almost smoking. Add spring onions, garlic, and chili.
Stir-fry (stirring constantly) until spring onions soften and garlic becomes fragrant. Transfer to a separate plate, leaving as much oil in the wok as you can.
Heat up another tablespoon of oil in the same wok – no need to wash it. Start adding prepared veggies in the following order (leaving a minute or two between each addition): broccoli, peas, red pepper, and carrot ribbons. Stir-fry until cooked yet still crunchy.
Transfer all vegetables to a big plate and pour the sauce to the bottom of the wok. Add in noodles – they may have clumped together a little, but the sauce and heat of the work will separate them again.
Add spring onions, chili, garlic, and stir-fried veg back to the wok. Mix everything well and let it warm up, stirring the whole time, for a minute or two.
Divide between two plates sprinkle with sprouts and crushed peanuts. Serve with lime wedges on the side.
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