Pad Thai and Thai Cusine: Local have become national

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A true national icon, Pad Thai, is the most famous Thai dish in the world. A brief recap of this dish’s history, which is not much Thai at all!   

Pad Thai, literally “Thai style fried noodles,” contains rice noodles, eggs, yellow tofu, dried shrimps, fish sauce, soy sprouts, and chili. All ingredients used for most, except chili, in Chinese cuisine. Indeed, some would trace the origin of this dish back to the kingdom of Ayutthaya (1351-1767). During this period, the capital was a genuine economic pole, a crossroads for international merchants, cultural diversity mixed, and new communities moved and exchanged customs. 


Pad Thai could be an adaptation of the Vietnamese Pho Xao or Kway teow,” Chinese fried noodles. But at this time, we’re not talking about Pad Thai yet. It will be necessary to wait until the 1940s and the consequence of various factors, economic, but also nationalistic, which prevail at the time in the policy of the government to see appearing this dish inseparable from the Thai cooking.

Development a sense of “Thainess”!

In 1938, Marshal Phibun Songkhram, then prime minister and military dictator of Thailand, launched a vast campaign to modernize the country while establishing a regime inspired by European fascism based on ultra-nationalist propaganda. The government imposes as a national language the language spoken in Bangkok, changes the name of Siam in Thailand (land of the free), encourages the population to adopt Western clothing, moves the first day of the year to bring it in line with the European calendar (January 1st instead of April 1st).

With the Second World War, Thailand finds itself in the middle of an economic crisis. Being one of the biggest rice exporters, the government decides to make up the deficit by exporting more and encouraging the population to consume more rice noodles. The noodles are already famous and always willing to develop a nationalist spirit, what the marshal calls “Thainess,” he creates a national dish, the “Pad Thai,” he distributes the recipe all over the country and urges the street traders to promote it. Soon the Pad Thai became one of the basics of so-called “fast food” in Thailand. 

Unique Flavors  

Today, it is almost impossible to list the number of restaurants serving it, as well as to count the many variations. Every chef has his secret recipe, and if the dish may be simple, it is not easy to find a “good” Thai Pad. 

Where is most famous in US

Hawker Fare by Chef James Syhabout (San fransisco)

It’s a traditional Lao dish that he ate in his mother’s home village. The ants nest in mango trees, and little children are sent into the tree to harvest the ants and their eggs.

Larb Ubol. New York, New York

Kra prao, or holy basil, brings undertones of licorice and cloves to a stir-fry of pork belly in which fatty bits and crispy edges vie for most-favored status. Dark gold hunks of fried catfish come stacked on a red curry that is saturated with hot chile paste and strewn with small burst balloons of Thai eggplants and twigs of fresh green peppercorns. Duck leg and thigh braised in soy and sweet-smoky-bitter Chinese five-spice is ho-hum at first, until a dash of vinegar from the accompanying ramekin wakes it up.(New York Times By Ligaya Mishan)

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