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Phad Thai with/without tamarind

I love phad thai, but it seems that some restaurants in Victoria use tamarind, and others don't. (Then again, one of these "thai" restaurants doesn't use fish sauce in theirs, either.)

Can anyone tell me which is correct? Is the phad thai flavour I like (with tamarind) regional to BC, or is it actually Thai? I have never been to Thailand, and I don't even know if phad thai exists there.

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  1. It's usually spelled pad thai and the version I was taught in Thailand had tamarind but there are as many versions as there are cooks in Thailand. It was as common on menus as french fries are here.

    8 Replies
    1. re: sharonanne

      I am always bewildered by the variety of spelling choices when one translates from a language that does not use the Roman alphabet.

      1. re: sharonanne

        Concurring with sharonanne. It's like trying to find a standard spaghetti recipe - there isn't one. Some thai cooks use (gasp!) ketchup and some don't, for example.

        To me - it doesn't taste right without tamarind and fish sauce. Is that "thai" restaurant you speak of run by Thais?

        1. re: fmed

          I'm not sure. The damnable thing is, they're the first Thai place in Victoria to open a second location, and they can't even make p(h)ad thai! (And I think it's bad all around; the noodles are always mushy and it has NO flavour.)

          I was told that they don't use fish sauce because of allergies, and the waitress didn't even understand me when I said tamarind. I wrote in down, and she took it to the cook. She spoke English well, but with a foreign accent.

          And that's totally how I feel; it needs tamarind and fish sauce. Truly, the tamarind is my favourite part. Now I just ask (if I'm in a new restaurant) if they use tamarind.

          1. re: miss_bennet

            They don't use fish sauce because they aren't authentic Thai ;)

            Name names miss_bennet!

            1. re: fmed

              You want me to call out the restaurant? I guess that's the whole point of this. I guess I'm just afraid of hurting people.

              Anyway, they're called "The Little Thai Place." I've only tried the first one (on Shelbourne), and I went there multiple times, always ordering the pad thai, and I hated it every time. They used narrow rice noodles and they were always mushy. And to me, if Thai restaurant can't make a good pad thai, it's not worth my money.

              1. re: miss_bennet

                I haven't had Thai food in Victoria in probably 10 years, but Siam used to do a good Pad Thai (with tamarind & fish sauce).

                1. re: miss_bennet

                  You aren't hurting people - you are protecting consumers from what is essentially a fraud. It's totally unacceptable. Culinary Darwinism will weed them out eventually. (Imagine a Chinese restaurant that does not use soy sauce....it's tantamount).

        2. Tamarind is used in almost all Pad Thai that I have had in thailand (I think there might have been one location that did not - or was very light) - (probably had pad thai around 70 times in Thailand in the last 5 years). Fish sauce is in practically every thai recipe (for all intensive purposes - it is the thai salt) - although salt is used sometimes (i.e. curry paste). They might have substituted rice vinegar (as the sour), but to me that is blaspheme.

          It might be that they are being lazy - in that in most of North America - you have to rehydrate the tamarind and squeeze and strain out stuff - to get tamarind juice/sauce (in thailand you can get them in individual packets like vinegar or ketchup in NA)