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Pad Thai--is it an authentically Thai dish?

The Dairy Queen Feb 25, 2008 07:05 AM

Is pad Thai an authentically Thai dish? (And, I'm sorry--I know the word "authentic" is kind of a hot button word on this board, but I'm not sure how else to phrase my question)...The reason I ask is I’ve seen several disparaging comments over the years here on Chowhound along the lines of "That restaurant is just for the pad Thai crowd" in various threads where people are debating the authenticity of various Thai restaurants.

Maybe I have selective memory, but I swear I’ve seen pad Thai on the menu of every Thai restaurant I’ve been to, I think, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. I think I’ve seen a recipe for pad Thai in pad in every Thai recipe book I’ve ever consulted.

I’ve sort of come to the conclusion over the years that pad Thai is a kind of Thai comfort food, maybe like chili might be in the U.S., where everyone’s mom and grandma has a recipe of her own for it and the recipe varies from region to region and even house to house. Is this the case or is it “tourist” fare only?

Thank you!


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    moymoy RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 25, 2008 07:21 AM

    It is an authentic dish but I've read on several Thai cooking websites that pad thai is just a common street vendor type meal.

    44 Replies
    1. re: moymoy
      Miss Needle RE: moymoy Feb 25, 2008 10:49 AM

      Yes, you will see pad thai served on the streets quite frequently. Pad thai in Thailand is different than the pad thai served in the States. Most of the pad thai restaurants here like to add ketchup. In Thailand, the red color comes from the chili pepper and tamarind.

      1. re: Miss Needle
        dreamsicle RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2008 10:57 AM

        It is an authentic Thai dish, but seems to be particularly popular in the US (as is Thai iced tea). I noticed that at Thai restaurants in Asia, pad see ew and rad na are the more commonly-ordered noodle dishes.

        1. re: Miss Needle
          jgg13 RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2008 11:00 AM

          Maybe the ketchup is a regional thing. I don't really recall seeing ketchup in my pad thai around these parts.

          1. re: jgg13
            jcrisco RE: jgg13 Feb 25, 2008 11:52 AM

            Check out chez pim's blog. She's got a great blog about pad thai.

            1. re: jgg13
              ZenSojourner RE: jgg13 Sep 2, 2010 12:48 AM

              I know for a fact that the Thai restaurant I used to go to in MO (when I lived there) did NOT use ketchup in the Pad Thai. That woman was a stickler for perfection.

              But if other Thai restaurants are doing that, maybe that's why the Pad Thai doesn't taste good to me at most other restaurants.

              1. re: ZenSojourner
                thew RE: ZenSojourner Sep 2, 2010 05:51 AM

                then be careful in thailand. i've seen it used there.

                1. re: thew
                  alkapal RE: thew Sep 2, 2010 05:56 AM

                  i've seen ketchup used in pad thai on tv -- "road trip with todd english" -- in a street stall in thailand, too.

                  i've also seen tommy tang use ketchup in thai food but not in pad thai:

                  here in a dish with sweet chili sauce, he uses tomato paste. http://newasiancuisine.com/381-tommy-...
                  i'd say ketchup is a shortcut step for the combo of sugar, vinegar and tomato paste....

                  1. re: thew
                    ZenSojourner RE: thew Sep 2, 2010 11:23 AM

                    Yeah. Not likely to be going to Thailand.

                    I've been told that it does get used there, but it's not part of the original Pad Thai "recipe".

                    I'm pretty sure that Pad Thai was "invented" by some high government official as an "authentic Thai" replacement for the chinese noodles that were popular as street food at the time. A kind of nationalist inspired culinary creation. It didn't use catsup (and wouldn't have) at the time because catsup would not have been an "authentic Thai" ingredient.

                    I still think it (catsup in Pad Thai) tastes funny. Maybe that's just because I learned to like the dish without it.


                    Heck the info about the origins of Pad Thai is right here in this thread. See the post:

                    klyeoh on Feb 27, 2008 10:37PM

                2. re: jgg13
                  Whosyerkitty RE: jgg13 Sep 6, 2010 01:38 PM

                  Me either. And the thought is nauseating. But then, there's pad thai and pad thai. It varies a great deal for some reason. I think it's better from hole in the walls that have been around for awhile and frankly trendy, overpriced newer places that overlap their asians anyway don't impress me. And I bet they don't even stock ketchup in these places. Yeech.

                  1. re: Whosyerkitty
                    jgg13 RE: Whosyerkitty Sep 7, 2010 10:04 PM

                    i don't find it nauseating, as others have mentioned it hits a lot of the flavor notes in one bundle that would show up in the dish. i just haven't really seen it used.

                    Also, I think when i posted that way back when, I was picturing miss needle's post as saying that people literally put ketchup on their pad thai as a condiment, which is very, very different.

                3. re: Miss Needle
                  moymoy RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2008 11:57 AM

                  I've heard about the ketchup factor but luckily I haven't personally encountered it yet.

                  1. re: moymoy
                    Echotraveler RE: moymoy Feb 26, 2008 09:37 AM


                    ketchup may be to substitute MSG hihihihihi

                    1. re: Echotraveler
                      Querencia RE: Echotraveler Jul 2, 2008 09:27 PM

                      Re ketchup in Asian cooking: I used to order a wonderful shrimp dish at a Chinese restaurant---mysterious sauce, sort of sweet-sour-spicy. His kid, who went to the high school where I taught, spilled the beans and told me his father put a whole cup of ketchup in every serving.

                  2. re: Miss Needle
                    happybellynh RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2008 12:34 PM

                    Ketchup?? Eeew. So glad that isn't an addition at the Thai joints I've been to in New England.

                    1. re: happybellynh
                      MMRuth RE: happybellynh Feb 25, 2008 12:56 PM

                      Actually, I lived as a child in Bangkok, and our Thai cook would add a dab of ketchup to both fried rice and Pad Thai - and I don't think she was doing it "just for us".

                      1. re: happybellynh
                        Passadumkeg RE: happybellynh Jul 2, 2008 04:15 AM

                        Belly Dude, I've thankfully not encountered ketchup either , but ketchup is a SE asian condiment. Conimex makes a pretty good Indonesian ketchup that I use w/ nasi goring or is it nasi bami, oh well it's good stuff.

                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                          klyeoh RE: Passadumkeg Feb 27, 2009 01:01 AM

                          You're right, passadumkeg - in fact, the word "ketchup" itself was adopted by the English from the Malay word "kichap" during the British-Malaya colonial days. The Malays use "kichap" in reference to soy sauce, fish sauce & other sauces - they themselves adopted the word from the Chinese, who used "kee chiap" to refer to fish sauce.

                          1. re: klyeoh
                            Blueicus RE: klyeoh Feb 27, 2009 07:01 PM

                            But in Chinese, the translation of ketchup translates directly as "tomato sauce"... which is too much of a coincidence to also refer to a fish sauce which I was taught to have a different name (and I would expect to contain the fish character "yu" in some sort of way).

                            1. re: Blueicus
                              K K RE: Blueicus Feb 27, 2009 08:59 PM

                              Well the "ketchup" sauce in Pad Thai is synonymous with the infamous Chinese dish "sweet and sour pork" (goo lo yok). The "fusion" style for sweet and sour pork and shortcut way is to use ketchup. But the old school way, requiring a bit more effort, is to use haw flakes (chinese cranberries if you will), and melt them down to create the more natural sweet and sour flavor.

                              But if you want to boil it down, the "ke" in Cantonese pronounciation of keh-jup, is the same character (if I am not mistaken) for eggplant (keh-ji)

                              1. re: K K
                                Blueicus RE: K K Mar 4, 2009 10:27 PM

                                I used to eat a lot of haw flakes as a kid. I can see how Hawthornes can be the tart base for a sweet and sour sauce.

                              2. re: Blueicus
                                klyeoh RE: Blueicus Mar 1, 2009 09:16 PM

                                Hey, Blueicus, you are right - the current Chinese translation does sound like a direct reference to "tomato sauce"! But I think it's more a case of incidental "sound alike", very convenient as a result too.

                                I think the use of "tomato" ketchup was introduced to the Chinese by the British/Europeans.

                          2. re: happybellynh
                            Richard 16 RE: happybellynh Mar 2, 2009 06:10 AM

                            Iron Chef Chen used ketchup in his highlighted Szechwan chili prawns dish...

                          3. re: Miss Needle
                            scubadoo97 RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2008 02:46 PM

                            In some Middle Eastern dishes ketchup can be substituted for tamarind since both have that sweet tart taste, even if they are very different. For the home cook, tamarind was not as accessible here in the US until more recently. I still need to search out my local Asian or Middle Eastern markets for it. I'm not sure I could find it at my local big box grocery store.

                            1. re: Miss Needle
                              KaimukiMan RE: Miss Needle Feb 26, 2008 10:38 PM

                              I recently checked with someone who works at one of Honolulu's best Thai restaurants. He was quite unabashed about the fact that they put Ketchup in their Pad Thai. I was stunned. He just laughed. Apparently it is pretty much an acceptable ingredient - even in Thailand where the chef is from.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan
                                Eat_Nopal RE: KaimukiMan Feb 27, 2008 10:58 PM

                                I hope you aren't referring to that Thai place on Ala Moana near the Double Tree... I got suckered into the place as many local tourism concierges & promotors dubbed that chef as the best in Modern Thai cuisine... God the food was mediocre and has such a big price tag.

                                1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                  KaimukiMan RE: Eat_Nopal Mar 21, 2008 04:48 AM

                                  I assume you are referring to Singha. When I first went there some years ago it was pretty decent, but has been dumbed down considerably. The place I was referring to is Keo's, a few blocks down the street on Kuhio at Kuamoo. I am willing to agree that it is not as good as it was when it was on Kapahulu, but it is still good thai food, much better than you will find in a lot of places.

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                    Eat_Nopal RE: KaimukiMan Mar 21, 2008 08:27 AM

                                    Yup I was referring to Singha... just down the street from the Hilton.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan
                                      ThaiNut RE: KaimukiMan Mar 21, 2008 10:00 AM

                                      If Keo's is the place where you state the Chef is from Thailand than I have to interject that Keo is not Thai and as far as I can tell from his bio he never spent any time there. He was born in Laos and immigrated to the US at age 15. My (Thai) wife and I lived in Bangkok for 12 years and then 3 in Honolulu. Our opinion was that the Keo's chain served quite edible food but it was not authenic Thai. On the other hand, our favorite Thai place in that era was Rama Thai on Kapahulu above the zoo. The cook there was a Lao who was married to a Puerto Rican guy. Now she could make Thai food! Keo's bio below.


                                      1. re: ThaiNut
                                        KaimukiMan RE: ThaiNut Mar 21, 2008 11:22 AM

                                        I really really miss Rama Thai. My current favorite is Pae Thai on King St.

                                        1. re: ThaiNut
                                          yummyrice RE: ThaiNut Apr 23, 2010 05:21 PM

                                          Keo's is not authentic Thai. Keo actually combined both Lao and Thai elements and then Americanized them and is promoting his fusion as "authentic" Thai cuisine. Some Thai restaurants across the U.S. have adopted some of his dishes/creations, but those dishes are definitely not actual Thai dishes so I agree with ThaiNut that Keo's is not authentic Thai.

                                          1. re: ThaiNut
                                            yummyrice RE: ThaiNut Apr 23, 2010 05:43 PM

                                            True. The rice noodles themselves are not native to Southeast Asia, but each country has created their own dishes from those rice noodles and can be considered "authentic" dishes because of how they're prepared.

                                            In Lao cuisine, our stir-fried rice stick noodles are called Khua Mee, Pad Mee Lao, or simply Pad Lao for short. The word "mee" suggests its Chinese origins as far as the rice stick noodles themselves are concerned, but the actual dish is an "authentic" Lao dish. I realize that in Chinese "Mi"/"Mee" only refers to yellow egg noodles or something like that, but the term is used very loosely in Laos.

                                            Similarly, Pad Thai is also an "authentic" Thai dish despite its noodles also having Chinese origins.

                                            Cambodia also has its own version of stir-fried rice stick noodles and supposedly Vietnam does as well, but I'm not positive about Vietnam.

                                            Can anyone here confirm if Vietnam has a stir-fried rice stick noodle dish?

                                            1. re: yummyrice
                                              Curt the Soi Hound RE: yummyrice Sep 1, 2010 05:58 PM

                                              One of the few pad thais I like is from a shop in Kanchanaburi. They don't use noodles, unless you ask for them.

                                              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound
                                                thew RE: Curt the Soi Hound Sep 1, 2010 07:27 PM

                                                if they dont use noodles i dont think it's pad thai

                                                1. re: thew
                                                  chowser RE: thew Sep 1, 2010 08:15 PM

                                                  Hey, aren't you the one who's always saying food evolves and the definitions change with it? Someone could call that authentic pad thai at some point.

                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                    thew RE: chowser Sep 1, 2010 08:27 PM

                                                    and when that change actually occurs and is in actual usage, i'll probably embrace it.

                                                    1. re: thew
                                                      chowser RE: thew Sep 2, 2010 04:06 AM

                                                      Change has got to start somewhere, even if it's Kanchanaburi.;-)

                                    2. re: Miss Needle
                                      xianzhong RE: Miss Needle Mar 4, 2009 09:47 PM

                                      I believe pad thai is made just like how fried rice is made in most Chinese households; it's just a way to use up leftovers.

                                      As for ketchup being used for either of those dishes, it's just a quick, easy, and cheap substitute for tomato paste and used more predominately in North America because everyone here loves ketchup. I for one don't mind a little squirt of ketchup just to give a vinegary sweet flavour to dishes, but generally only use it if I have nothing else. And I really hate when it's used in large quantities, as in most pad thai dishes here in N. American restaurants; it just disgusting like that IMHO.

                                      1. re: xianzhong
                                        klyeoh RE: xianzhong Mar 5, 2009 12:44 AM

                                        Totally agree with you, xianzhong.

                                        "Real" pad thai uses a mixture of tamarind juice and palm sugar for the sour-sweet taste. Tomato ketchup is a convenient substitute, I guess.

                                        1. re: xianzhong
                                          alkapal RE: xianzhong Mar 6, 2009 06:26 AM

                                          "And I really hate when it's used in large quantities, as in most pad thai dishes here in N. American restaurants"
                                          xianzhong, your statement is pretty broad.

                                          i haven't had *any* pad thai here in the u.s. where ketchup is used in large quantities. (and i make pad thai myself, but prefer pad kee mao). i've eaten pad thai all over d.c. metro-northern virginia and in florida. where have you eaten it that uses so much ketchup?

                                          1. re: alkapal
                                            xianzhong RE: alkapal Mar 12, 2009 07:51 PM

                                            I live about an hour southwest of Toronto and almost all but like two of the Thai or Viet-Thai restaurants in my area have pad thai dishes that don't use ketchup at all. In Toronto itself maybe half the restaurants I've seen had pad thai with relatively heavy ketchup use and many of my friends and relatives from different cities all over the U.S. eat pad thai with a lot of ketchup, even friends that have traveled Thailand themselves have eaten pad thai with loads of ketchup; most likely restaurants specifically for tourists.

                                            It's just like how North American style Chinese restaurants use a lot of ketchup on dishes like Sweet and Sour Pork. The original "authentic" recipe calls for just a little bit of tomato paste but the way it's done here it's basically pure ketchup with like some sugar, vinegar and soy sauce.

                                            I personally don't like all that ketchup and I've actually never ordered pad thai (or sweet and sour pork) in my life, I'd only eat some when other people order it. I can't fault a restaurant for cooking dishes that way if they sells, and boy does it sell at a lot of these restaurants.

                                            1. re: xianzhong
                                              thew RE: xianzhong Mar 13, 2009 06:07 AM

                                              ketchup use in thailand is NOT only found in tourist oriented places. they like ketchup in thailand. they use it.

                                          2. re: xianzhong
                                            MikeG333 RE: xianzhong Sep 12, 2012 06:20 AM

                                            For years we have gone to Brookside Thai in Bloomfield, NJ and the food is great. Pad Thai does not seem to have ketchup and is the best Pad Thai I have had. I did have Pad Thai at another restaurant and right a way I said to my wife, "This really tastes tomatoey." She agreed. I did not make the ketchup connection, but on hearing this I realize that it was ketchup I tasted. I will stick with Brookside in the future.

                                          3. re: Miss Needle
                                            PeterL RE: Miss Needle Mar 6, 2009 07:49 AM

                                            Ketchup? I have never exprienced that in pad thai.

                                            1. re: PeterL
                                              xianzhong RE: PeterL Mar 12, 2009 07:54 PM

                                              good...keep it that way

                                        2. Sam Fujisaka RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 25, 2008 12:04 PM

                                          Pad thai is authentic, but mostly served as a street and night market food.

                                          1. jgg13 RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 25, 2008 12:51 PM

                                            When I see someone refer to the 'pad thai crowd' (or something similar), I don't read that as a condemnation of the dish itself but rather referring to the folks that stick with one of the most accessible items on the menu and never move beyond it.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: jgg13
                                              Bob W RE: jgg13 Feb 25, 2008 02:31 PM

                                              That's how I interpreted that as well. To me, pad Thai is akin to fried rice (which you'll also see on many/most Thai menus, and I've seen a lot of them).

                                              So it's both authentic and accessible. Hey, if it gets people in the door, maybe they'll try more adventurous offerings. One thing about Thai food, it LOOKS good -- bright colors, etc.

                                              1. re: jgg13
                                                The Dairy Queen RE: jgg13 Feb 26, 2008 02:14 AM

                                                Ah, this makes sense to me, thank you.

                                                And thank you everyone, for your comments in this thread. All very interesting and educational.


                                                1. re: jgg13
                                                  Ruth Lafler RE: jgg13 Feb 26, 2008 10:51 AM

                                                  Right. That's how I meant it when I used it the other day. Also, pad Thai is a dish that's very easy to "dumb down" for American palates -- a lot of pad Thai in American restaurants is overly sweet, peanutty and gooey, without the hot/tangy/herbal/briney contrasts characteristic of good Thai cooking.

                                                  1. re: jgg13
                                                    spellweaver16 RE: jgg13 Feb 28, 2009 12:13 AM

                                                    It's also a pretty safe dish for people like me who, unfortunately, has next to no tolerance for spicy food. Thai menus are like minefields to me lol I usually stick to pad thai, pho, or pad see ew.

                                                    1. re: spellweaver16
                                                      thew RE: spellweaver16 Mar 1, 2009 06:14 AM

                                                      pho isn;t thai. vietnamese

                                                      1. re: spellweaver16
                                                        MikeG333 RE: spellweaver16 Sep 12, 2012 06:29 AM

                                                        I like spicy, but I like to have one non spicy dish to eat to lessen the burn as I eat Three bites curry, one or two of PT They actually mix well chewed together too.. We usually get Rad Na or Pad Thai for that purpose plus they taste good. Pad Kee Moa we love also, but that is a spicy noodle dish so when we get that plus a curry or chili dish then it is a hot night on the town.

                                                    2. a
                                                      aelph RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 25, 2008 04:00 PM

                                                      I'd just like to add that pad thai's been bastardized to a huge extent in the US. Such that many of the "pad thai crowd" assume the dish is basically "peanut sauce noodles." Much of Thai cuisine's been misapprehended and blended into what's more Malaysian or Indonesian. Real pad thai may contain catsup ;), but it does not swim in "peanut sauce" of any kind.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: aelph
                                                        moymoy RE: aelph Feb 25, 2008 06:44 PM

                                                        I respectfully disagree, even the most Americanized thai restaurants I've been to maintain the thai heritage. Other than the fact that curry is a common denominator in all SE Asian cuisine, I see no blending.

                                                        I've taken a great interest in thai cuisine lately and have been reading many thai cooking websites. Pad thai is no big deal to the Thai's, it's a simple food eaten on the go as a snack, from what I gather they find it humorous that Americans have taken such a liking to it, they by no means look at pad thai as the symbol of their national cuisine nor are they offended that it's become ubiquitous in America as quintessentially thai.

                                                        1. re: moymoy
                                                          jwagnerdsm RE: moymoy Feb 25, 2008 06:56 PM

                                                          When I was in Thailand the two dishes I found in most every "coffee shop" menu were congee in the morning and pad thai in the afternoon. But I also found pad thai to be more of a blue collar food than something that people would eat for a special occasion. In fact, I don't ever recall eating it at one of the big, glorious hours long meals we had at night with the people we were working with over there. The rule of thumb for most every dinner, as far as I could tell, was one dish for everyone at the table, plus one more dish and a big fish prepared in some incomprehensible, amazingly delicious way. Pad Thai was a fairly common street food, but there was always a huge selection available, including the most delectable roasted bugs that you can imagine.

                                                          1. re: moymoy
                                                            aelph RE: moymoy Feb 26, 2008 08:46 AM

                                                            You misunderstand me. When I mention "blending" of Thai/Malaysian/Indonesian cuisines I'm addressing a general American misapprehension of Thai cuisine: namely, that it incorporates "peanut sauce" as a main component. I challenge you to go to any run-of-the-mill Thai restaurant in the Midwest and find a pad thai that's not heavy on the peanut component. That's where the Indonesian/Malaysian misapprehension comes in, or look at what Rachel Ray and those of her ilk concoct as "Thai" pizza..."peanut sauce" can be found in Indonesian satays and and the like...not pad thai.

                                                            1. re: aelph
                                                              Terrieltr RE: aelph Mar 21, 2008 05:03 PM

                                                              I'd just note that I'm from the midwest, and I've never seen pad thai with peanut sauce. Topped with crushed peanuts, yes, but no sauce.

                                                              1. re: Terrieltr
                                                                aelph RE: Terrieltr Mar 21, 2008 05:34 PM

                                                                Might I add: Food Network Recipe TGIF challenge Pad Thai burgers(yeech) included "peanut sauce."

                                                                Perhaps it's a more intimate misapprehension in the Midwest(I'm talking outside of the major metropolitan areas)...that somehow tamarind and crushed peanuts are mistaken as "peanut sauce" by
                                                                undiscerning diners. I'm writing from Indianapolis which has abysmal Thai food and the independent weeklies routinely cover pad thai palaces referring to the pad thai as having "peanut sauce"...and being "spicy," but that's for another debate. I cook leagues better Thai at home(thank you David Thompson) than can be found in the restaurants hereabouts(early on I had a mussaman curry that looked and tasted like it came out of an Indian kitchen...literally, it was like a bad tikka masala) and recently moved from Chicago which boasts some of the best Thai cuisines in the country...I know from where I speak.

                                                                1. re: Terrieltr
                                                                  Rubee RE: Terrieltr Mar 27, 2008 06:59 PM

                                                                  I've never seen it either.

                                                                  Aelph, what are some of your favorite recipes from David Thompson. I've had "Thai Food" for some time and have yet to delve into; it's about time. I've explored other authors ("Hot Sour Salty Sweet" and "Cracking the Coconut") and am interested in why Thompson is your favorite.

                                                                  1. re: Rubee
                                                                    aelph RE: Rubee Mar 27, 2008 07:30 PM

                                                                    The Thompson is my favorite because it's all inclusive: a little history, a little sociology, and, best of all, it's a "Larousse" of royal Thai fare(the Thai cooking gathered in the funerary books of nineteenth century Thai female cooks in royal houses). He doesn't dumb down the dishes and doesn't offer substitutions, he assumes you can(with a little investigation) find what you need. If anything, it's a seminal document distinguishing itself by virtue of it's unassailability(he's extraordinarily thorough). It's through Thompson that I learned to appreciate cilantro root(a small thing, I know...but a revelation to one who until reading Arharn Thai hadn't even considered the possibility). As for others not encountering "peanut sauce" or the adoration of the peanut being applied to Ameri-Thai, well, that's awesome! I wish it were different from what I've encountered outside of the many wonderful, educational Thai restaurants I've been exposed to in Chicago and, surprisingly, New York(well...Queens, anyway)...I have not had Thai in LA tho' I understand it can be as good(if not better) than Chicago's lauded restaurants. It irritates me because Thai is one of my favorite cuisines: I don't care about pad thai(tho' I like a well-made "vermicelli" pad thai "omelet"), and I really dislike it that Thai food is considered across the board "spicy." I just don't know what to make of that.

                                                                    1. re: aelph
                                                                      Rubee RE: aelph Mar 27, 2008 10:10 PM

                                                                      You've sold me - I'm going to start reading it tonight. Yes, I agree cilantro root is a key component, as is the use of a mortar and pestle. I can't cook Thai without it!

                                                                  2. re: Terrieltr
                                                                    rweater RE: Terrieltr Jun 27, 2008 06:52 AM

                                                                    I'm also in the midwest and I've usually seen pad thai as you've seen it--topped with crushed peanuts but no actual peanut sauce. Interestingly, one of our local thai restaurants recently added a "peanut sauce pad thai" to the menu in addition to the regular pad thai. I've had it and while it's tasty, I understand that it's not "the way it's meant to be."

                                                                    1. re: rweater
                                                                      klyeoh RE: rweater Jul 2, 2008 12:40 AM

                                                                      Yes, pad Thai's topped with crushed peanuts, and NOT peanut sauce (!!) . I also find pad Thai in many places in the US tend to be soggier than the ones you find in Thailand.

                                                                      BTW, there's also another "typical" Thai dish which you'd find in most cafes/eateries in Thailand called "American fried rice". It's fried rice, studded with raisins & flavored with tomato ketchup (hence, giving it a reddish tinge), served with a sunny-side-up fried egg, fried chicken & cocktail sausages.

                                                                  3. re: aelph
                                                                    huaqiao RE: aelph Feb 27, 2009 04:33 PM

                                                                    The reason Thai=peanut sauce in the US is not because of pad thai. It's because of satay sauce. And since there are so many more Thai restaurants in the US than Malaysian/Indonesia, satay is thought of as a Thai food.

                                                                  4. re: moymoy
                                                                    MikeG333 RE: moymoy Sep 12, 2012 06:27 AM

                                                                    So Pad Thai to Thailand is like Pizza to America.

                                                                2. cee RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 26, 2008 03:01 AM

                                                                  To add something - not many Thais can actually make Pad Thai. It's not something people cook at home often. It's street food, something eaten as a snack or meal for under a dollar out on the sidewalk.

                                                                  So, a dish which everyone's mom + grandma might have their own recipe and varies from region to region might be Thailand's most famous dish (here in Asia and within Thailand anyway), Tom Yum. Tom Yum is a spicy sour soup and it really does have a hundred variations. And cooks can talk for hours on the best way to make it.

                                                                  1. e
                                                                    Echotraveler RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 26, 2008 09:33 AM

                                                                    PAD THAI!!!! we even have a pad night at my house every week!!!

                                                                    the big differece between great and good is the fresh ingredients!
                                                                    fresh tamarind pulp (the secrete), brown sugar, a little can of thai noodle soup mix (just to kick it up a knotch), chilly oil, one or two little chile (the small red ones!) a lot of crushed penuts! oh my mouth waters!!! Scallions, Fresh vegies, and of coarse the meat (ocean or earth)

                                                                    i want!!

                                                                    1. chowser RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 26, 2008 10:11 AM

                                                                      When I first had pad thai, I was in Boston, about 20 years ago. It was a heavier, darker dish, almost like a combination of lo mein and pad thai. Outside of Boston, I've had it on both coasts and while both coasts have similar pad thai, it's completely different from what I had in Boston. I don't know if it was more Americanized because that was 20 years ago or a location thing but I do miss the one I had in Boston way back then, though I can't remember the details of it any more. I do remember having pad thai outside of Boston and at first thinking, "This isn't pad thai!" before realizing it actually was.

                                                                      1. t
                                                                        torty RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 27, 2008 06:26 PM

                                                                        This link seems like a good overview http://www.viddler.com/explore/sawatd...

                                                                        1. k
                                                                          klyeoh RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 27, 2008 06:37 PM

                                                                          Pad Thai is indeed an "authentic" Thai dish. It was created by the neo-fascist & virulently anti-Chinese Field Marshall Plaek Pibunsonggram in the 1950s as he felt that Thais were "eating too much Chinese food" (the ethnic Chinese immigrant community were economically dominant in Thailand at the time & raised the ire of ultra-rightwing nationalists like the Field Marshall). So, he set about inventing a noodle dish which would be "authentically Thai": egg noodles, tamarind, chilli, shrimps, crushed peanuts, beansprouts, little cubes of beancurd, sugar, fish sauce, etc.

                                                                          The result is a much-loved Thai street dish which can be afforded by every Thai (ethnic Thai or Chinese alike) nowadays. It's also a comfort food to me (I'm 4th-generation Thai-Chinese - great-great-grandpa in Bangkok was Chinese, whilst great-great-grandma was Thai), and the recipe's usually standard - with very little variation. P.S. - we don't use ketchup though - that's probably an American addition.

                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                          1. re: klyeoh
                                                                            Humbucker RE: klyeoh Feb 27, 2008 07:03 PM

                                                                            I don't think I've ever seen pad thai with I noodles (although I rarely eat Thai food). Are the original noodles like the thin egg noodles used for Hong Kong style chow mein?

                                                                            1. re: Humbucker
                                                                              klyeoh RE: Humbucker Feb 27, 2008 10:04 PM

                                                                              Noodles used for Pad Thai are thin & flat, whereas the ones used in HK-style chow mein are much fatter - in Singapore/Hong Kong/Australia, this type of noodles are referred to as Hokkien/Fukien noodles, and are yellow in color when uncooked. Pad Thai noodles, on the other hand, are paler-colored noodles, and sometimes be bought in a dry form, which you parboil before stir-frying.

                                                                              1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                dreamsicle RE: klyeoh Feb 27, 2008 11:35 PM

                                                                                The noodles used in Pad Thai are called "金邊粉" in Cantonese, which literally translates as "Cambodian noodles".

                                                                                1. re: dreamsicle
                                                                                  klyeoh RE: dreamsicle Feb 28, 2008 12:23 AM

                                                                                  Cambodians must be the most under-rated foodies in the world. I remembered when I was in Saigon last year, I tried a fabulous rice noodle soup dish called Hu Tieu Nam Vang, which is very popular amongst Vietnamese. It translates to "rice noodles from Phnom Penh", since it's the Cambodian-Chinese who introduced the rice noodles to the Vietnamese.

                                                                                  1. re: Echotraveler
                                                                                    ThaiNut RE: Echotraveler Feb 28, 2008 04:06 AM

                                                                                    One of the ways that almost all Thai restaurants here in the U.S. screw up the Pad Thai is to mix everything together, and which causes many people to get turned off due to the sweetness of the added sugar. Follow the below link and you will see how it is usually prepared in Thailand. The three piles on the left are sugar, ground hot pepper and ground peanut. Also, perched on top is the whole egg omelet; not chopped up and mixed in. Sometimes in Thailand the bean sprouts will also be in a pile off to the side and the dish may come with a small spray of very young bananas (each about 1 inch long). Serving it this way gives the customer the option of mixing in as much or as little or the spicing as he/she wants.


                                                                                    ...and thanks to Curt the Soi Hound for the picture.

                                                                                    1. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                      The Dairy Queen RE: ThaiNut Feb 28, 2008 05:28 AM

                                                                                      Oh, that looks gorgeous!


                                                                                      1. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                        Echotraveler RE: ThaiNut Feb 28, 2008 09:18 AM

                                                                                        ive seen a couple of youtubes about the pad thai....it seems they serve fresh vegies on top...

                                                                                        another thing, is i cant understand why i would put the spice on the side, since the pad thai should at least be tinny bit spicy....i would guess that what would be refered to as "spice on the side"

                                                                                        scallions and bean sprouts are added when serving or maybe at the end of cooking, for fresh vegie crunch

                                                                                        P.S. ok that photo link looks awsome.......it looks like the noodle is transparent....the only noodle ive seen like that is the bean base noodle....

                                                                                        1. re: Echotraveler
                                                                                          ThaiNut RE: Echotraveler Feb 28, 2008 10:00 AM

                                                                                          I think you missed the point of having the spicing and some other ingredients off to the side when it comes out of the restaurant's kitchen. That enables the eater to selectively sprinkle as much or as little of that spice on the top as he/she wants and then mix the whole thing up. Another thing not shown in the picture is the lime wedge that usually comes with it. Here again, the eater can squeeze on as much as he/she wants.

                                                                                          1. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                            Echotraveler RE: ThaiNut Feb 28, 2008 11:09 AM

                                                                                            i get it....but isnt there a difference between cooking with the spice inside? it gets fused instead of just mixed in...you know?

                                                                                            1. re: Echotraveler
                                                                                              ThaiNut RE: Echotraveler Feb 28, 2008 12:20 PM

                                                                                              Well, I see where you are coming from, and I agree that the 'fusion' thing might be important in Western cooking. But for Pad Thai the noodles and other stuff are in the wok for such a brief time (pad thai noodles are pre-soaked in warm water) that 'fusion' may not be important. And my guess is that the warmth and wetness of the noodles kinda dissolves whatever amount of sugar that the eater mixes in.

                                                                                              1. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                                Echotraveler RE: ThaiNut Feb 29, 2008 03:39 AM

                                                                                                you must be right...i on the other hand dont wok my pad thai.....mostly because i dont have a wok...=-)

                                                                                                how would a wok react on electrical stove...the same?

                                                                                                1. re: Echotraveler
                                                                                                  ThaiNut RE: Echotraveler Feb 29, 2008 04:52 AM

                                                                                                  Luckily, I have gas so I can wok all over the place (get it?). Anywho... I have seen woks designed for electric stoves. They have a flat bottom so you can make contact with most of the electric element. I have NOT heard good things about them because it seems that you just cannot get them as hot as you can on a gas stove. The whole principle behind stir-frying is to cook it fast and furious and then serve it as soon as it is done.

                                                                                                  1. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                                    Echotraveler RE: ThaiNut Feb 29, 2008 05:03 AM

                                                                                                    you making me wok around with hunger!

                                                                                        2. re: ThaiNut
                                                                                          klyeoh RE: ThaiNut Mar 3, 2008 02:58 PM

                                                                                          That looked yummy. You're right - Thais prefer their beansprouts raw (served on the side), whereas the Chinese will mix the beansprouts in during the frying process to parcook them.

                                                                                          But the dish in the photo looked like a version using glass noodles, no?

                                                                                2. re: klyeoh
                                                                                  thew RE: klyeoh Feb 29, 2008 06:08 AM

                                                                                  my understanding was that it was created to help deal with a rice shortage post WW2... but i don't know how true that is.

                                                                                  but i heard that story in several paces in thailand

                                                                                3. m
                                                                                  miss_bennet RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 28, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                                                  I have to say that I really don't care if pad thai is uthentic; I only care if it has tamarind. If I am at a new-to-me Thai place, I ALWAYS ask if the pad thai has tamarind. If the answer if no, I don't get it.

                                                                                  I remember getting pad thai from a street fair booth in Seattle when I was eleven, and it had ketchup in it, and was sickly sweet. I aksed the cook where the "sour, crunchy orange things" were, and he said he didn't use tamarind because his customers preferred it with ketchup.

                                                                                  Apart from the tamarind, I am also fussy about the noodle. Most local restaurants use rice sticks. My one requirement for the noodle is that it must be chewy. So places that consistently overcook their noodles don't get my money, even if they use tamarind. The worst local restaurant has no tamarind, soft, mushy noodles and NO FISH SAUCE (for allergies)!

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: miss_bennet
                                                                                    The Dairy Queen RE: miss_bennet Feb 28, 2008 10:07 AM

                                                                                    Oh, no doubt about it--great pad Thai is delicious, and it was everywhere I went in Thailand, big cities and small towns alike. But, as you say, miss_bennet, it needs to be a brilliant balancing act of flavors and textures, not just a soggy, sugary, limp mess.

                                                                                    I just wanted to make sure that, along the lines, say, of eating clam chowder out of a sourdough breadbowl in Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco (which I also happen to adore, by the way--some kind of fascination leftover from childhood, I think), it wasn't just something brought out for the tourists... "Inauthenticity" doesn't change the deliciousness of something, but, I still would like to be educated about what I'm eating.

                                                                                    I only recall a couple of occasions where the sugar and chiles and such were served on the side as ThaiNut describes and as shown in the photo link. I'm afraid I might have been too shy to stir it all in, worried it might be rude (it just seems like it could turn into a big mess). Next time, I'll sprinkle and stir with abandon!

                                                                                    I find one of the previous comments, that it's not necessarily a dish most Thai make at home, but, rather, something they eat out, very interesting. My assumption was completely wrong on that point.


                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                      Curt the Soi Hound RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 29, 2008 04:24 PM

                                                                                      Here's a classic, not soggy, not over sauced:


                                                                                      1. re: Curt the Soi Hound
                                                                                        Echotraveler RE: Curt the Soi Hound Mar 1, 2008 11:11 AM

                                                                                        looking nice! next time ill take a pic on our pad thai...

                                                                                        it seems that pad thai is not a ONE RECIPE plate...every time we cook pad Thai it seems it gets better, but it always looks different...

                                                                                        for example last night we dide simple pad thai

                                                                                        boiled tamarind, got the seeds out, then threw a bag of mixed seafood (the good one, not the crappy sea food bags), let them defreeze with the tamarind, add fish sauce!, then added 3 little chillies, half a bag of frozen vegetales, little salt and 4 spoons of black sugar....

                                                                                        it was a bit watery so we added a bit of coconut milk (very very tillte less than a spoon) added tahini (cause it was there, and otherwise would have gone to the trash) some penut butter, then mixed and let cook......
                                                                                        for .90 cents we found very very thin rice noodles (recomended, they were great), put them in hot water for 10 minutes (not boiling)

                                                                                        mix well, scallions, beensprouts, lemon! and we ate!!! it was so nice!!! with whit rice

                                                                                        is that pad thai?...is it authentic?, i doubt it....i called it pad thai, is it enough? lol....


                                                                                        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound
                                                                                          klyeoh RE: Curt the Soi Hound Mar 3, 2008 02:59 PM

                                                                                          Now THAT is a true Pad Thai dish!

                                                                                    2. t
                                                                                      torty RE: The Dairy Queen Mar 21, 2008 07:38 PM

                                                                                      Check out this link. Speaks to authentic.


                                                                                      It is not linking on a click- not sure how to fix- sorry

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: torty
                                                                                        Kajikit RE: torty Feb 27, 2009 06:13 AM

                                                                                        That video was really interesting!

                                                                                      2. Asa RE: The Dairy Queen Mar 23, 2008 02:40 PM

                                                                                        Yes, definitely an authentic thai dish, as the name suggests. The full term, "kwaiteow pad thai" means fried rice noodles, thai style. But by no means considered by thais as a sophisticated dish. And as with many trendy dishes that originate in other parts of the world (like pizza or sushi), it evolved in western kitchens, as a result of different quality ingredients, cooking instruments, or tecniques. Here's a pic of pad thai from a vendor market on Sala Daeng in Bangkok. (btw, the noodles are wrapped in an omlette outer skin.)

                                                                                        1. The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 27, 2008 03:23 AM

                                                                                          I'm re-reading this thread after many months and can I just say that I'm so glad I thought I was wrong with my assumption that pad thai would be something for which everybody's grandma had her own recipe and that would seldom be prepared in someone's home.

                                                                                          I know it's ubiquitous street food in Thailand and from that I concluded it was "easy" to prepare (and possibly a dish they just broke out for the tourists): I'm relieved it's not the latter and, well, because the pad thai I've prepared at home has never been quite right, also relieved it's not the former!


                                                                                          1. l
                                                                                            Louise RE: The Dairy Queen Feb 27, 2009 03:33 PM

                                                                                            I'm sure people get tired of me mentioning this site, but here goes:


                                                                                            Includes recipe and variations. I've made it a bunch of times and it's pretty easy.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Louise
                                                                                              lvanleer RE: Louise Mar 5, 2009 02:41 PM

                                                                                              Did anyone catch Throwdown with Bobby Flay last night? The first one was a pad thai from Thai Basil in Chantilly Virginia.....The lady who beat Bobby used tamarind and palm sugar to make hers....and is actually from Thailand....she even teaches classes at her restaurant so you can learn how to make pad thai.

                                                                                              1. re: lvanleer
                                                                                                Kelli2006 RE: lvanleer Mar 6, 2009 08:25 AM

                                                                                                I caught that episode, and I will have to try Thai Basil when I visit friends in the DC area this summer. Her Pad Thai looked amazing.

                                                                                            2. designerboy01 RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 5, 2010 09:34 PM

                                                                                              Pad Thai is originally a Chinese dish. Originally the Thai people were a tribe in Yunnan Province in China. The origins of the dish is Chinese but it has taken on another form in Thailand.


                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: designerboy01
                                                                                                klyeoh RE: designerboy01 Apr 6, 2010 07:08 AM

                                                                                                Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram, who basically "invented" Pad Thai, was also rabidly anti-Chinese & persecuted the Thai-Chinese populace at the time (one of the reasons my Thai-Chinese great-grandparents moved out from Bangkok to Malaya/Singapore).

                                                                                                Although Pad Thai used Chinese noodles, the Field Marshall intended the end-product to be something typically Thai, so the local populace have a noodle dish which they can call their own, and to stop patronizing Chinese noodle shops/stalls in Thailand at the time.

                                                                                                1. re: designerboy01
                                                                                                  mymomisthebestcook RE: designerboy01 Apr 6, 2010 09:59 AM

                                                                                                  So why dont they offer it on Chinese menus?

                                                                                                  1. re: mymomisthebestcook
                                                                                                    thew RE: mymomisthebestcook Apr 6, 2010 02:44 PM

                                                                                                    just because a dish originated in china a thousand years earlier doesnt mean the recipe and name wont change in that thousand years.

                                                                                                    there are plenty of chinese stir fried noodle dishes, such as lo mein, on chinese menus

                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                      Richard 16 RE: thew Apr 7, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                                                                      Exactly, thew. traditional, classic, and similar terms are tossed around seemingly to emphasize what the speaker wants it to. Are tomatoes an Italian Ingredient? if we go back only a few hundred years they are not -- since, of course, they originated in Central and South America. the same with potatoes and Ireland. Of course tomatoes were thought of as poisonous, as were nightshades and general -- hence the term deadly nightshade.

                                                                                                      Does it bother anyone else here that terms like "classic" are tossed around by advertisers subverting their meaning? How can anything be an "instant classic"? I MO simply using terms like "traditional" only have meaning in context. This would make pad Thai either "traditional" because it is so ubiquitous, or not "traditional" in the sense that it hasn't been around for thousands of years in Thailand.

                                                                                                      An antique car is, what, one that's over 25 years? (I don't really know...) as we all know, apples did not originate in the Americas -- but what about the phrase "as American as apple pie"?

                                                                                                      in every place I've ever seen it Pad Thai i listed as a Thai dish. I make a great pad Thai and I'm a white Jewish boy from the burbs. Except for the fresh vegetables and proteins most of the items are in the Thai section. and I often use a great mirin in mine; obviously not a traditional Thai ingredient.

                                                                                                      Oh well. I may be curious about its origins, but the best part is it tastes great!

                                                                                                      1. re: Richard 16
                                                                                                        Steve RE: Richard 16 Apr 8, 2010 03:01 PM

                                                                                                        What do you mean "if we go back ONLY (emphasis added) a few hundred years?"

                                                                                                        I can't go back that far, I'll be late to pick up the kids.

                                                                                                        Apples are from Kazakhstan, btw. The largest city, Almaty, means apple in English. The Original Big Apple.

                                                                                                    2. re: mymomisthebestcook
                                                                                                      alanbarnes RE: mymomisthebestcook Apr 10, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                                                                      For the same reason Chinese restaurants don't serve spaghetti carbonara. Sure, the noodles may have their origins in China,* but their preparation and presentation developed locally.

                                                                                                      Pad Thai is not a Chinese dish. It is based on ingredients brought to Thailand from China, but that doesn't makes the dish Chinese. If it did, then Thai curries, with their chile peppers, have to be classified as South American food.

                                                                                                      *Yes, I know the legend of Marco Polo bringing pasta from China to Europe is historically inaccurate, but we'll ignore that fact for purposes of this example

                                                                                                      1. re: mymomisthebestcook
                                                                                                        designerboy01 RE: mymomisthebestcook Dec 5, 2010 09:09 PM

                                                                                                        I think all Chinese restaurants that cook noodles have rice noodle dishes. I did state
                                                                                                        "The origins of the dish is Chinese but it has taken on another form in Thailand.".

                                                                                                      2. re: designerboy01
                                                                                                        penang_rojak RE: designerboy01 Apr 7, 2010 06:22 PM

                                                                                                        Pad Thai is Thai. It's never been Chinese!

                                                                                                        Just as Japanese ramen is Japanese - though you also want to say it originated from Chinese lamian.

                                                                                                        And I don't think the Thais would appreciate being regarded as a "tribe" from China, just as the Tibetans wouldn't. It's Chinese cultural (and culinary?) hegemony.

                                                                                                        1. re: penang_rojak
                                                                                                          designerboy01 RE: penang_rojak Dec 5, 2010 09:11 PM

                                                                                                          But they speak the same language and if you trace the history back you can see. Its like the Yue tribe where the Cantonese and the Northern Vietnamese come from the same tribe before China was unified.

                                                                                                          1. re: designerboy01
                                                                                                            klyeoh RE: designerboy01 Dec 6, 2010 03:15 PM

                                                                                                            Sorry - who spoke the same language? The Thais & the Chinese?!

                                                                                                            1. re: designerboy01
                                                                                                              alanbarnes RE: designerboy01 Dec 6, 2010 03:48 PM

                                                                                                              >>"But they speak the same language "<<

                                                                                                              Um, no. Some languages of the Tai family (eg, Zhuang, Tai Ya, Pa Di) are indigenous to Southern China, but they aren't Thai. Related, but not the same. It's like saying that the Spanish and the Italians speak the same language.

                                                                                                        2. g
                                                                                                          guygirl94 RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 23, 2010 12:12 PM

                                                                                                          Pad thai is most certainly a Thai dish, although it can have a million different preparations. It is most often purchased from street vendors, although many restaurants in Thailand will serve it as well. We were in Thailand a few weeks ago. It was about the only thing my daughter would get. It always tasted different, always used different noodles of different sizes, but was often quite sweet - sweeter than she gets here. Like pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: guygirl94
                                                                                                            klyeoh RE: guygirl94 Apr 23, 2010 05:00 PM

                                                                                                            The basic recipe for Pad Thai is the same (stir fried with prawns, beancurd, chives, beansprouts, and use of tamarind, palm sugar for flavoring, etc.), though you can opt for different types of noodles, e.g. sen lek (fine, flat rice noodles), woon sen (glass noodles).

                                                                                                            I'm guessing you can differentiate Pad Thai from other Thai noodles dishes like Kue-tiau Radna (fried wide rice noodles, topped with seafood/pork gravy), Pad See-Ew (fried dry wide rice noodles), etc. They all taste pretty different and are very distinct.

                                                                                                          2. woodleyparkhound RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 23, 2010 12:30 PM

                                                                                                            I lived in Thailand on two occasions in the 80's and 90's. The only place I ever found pad thai being prepared was in a stall deep inside an outdoor market. Thai friends at the time told me that you would never find it on the menu in any sort of proper restaurant - and I never did.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                                                                                              thew RE: woodleyparkhound Apr 23, 2010 02:37 PM

                                                                                                              my experience spending several months there in the late 80's was different.

                                                                                                              1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                                                                                                klyeoh RE: woodleyparkhound Apr 23, 2010 05:08 PM

                                                                                                                Depends on what kind of restaurant you frequent in Bangkok. If you go to a Thai-Chinese restaurant which specializes in Thai-Taechew food (e.g. woon-sen with prawns/crab, braised abalone, sharksfin soup), then they wouldn't have Pad Thai, which is essentially a Thai street food.
                                                                                                                Restaurants specialising in royal Thai cuisine, e.g. Bussaracum, or high-end ones like The Blue Elephant may not offer pad Thai (it's like trying to order pizza in Jean-Georges).

                                                                                                                But most family-style restaurants popular with Bangkok residents (e.g. Bua, S&P, See-Fah, etc) will definitely have Pad Thai on their menu. Next time you're in Bangkok, try stepping into any Thai chain restaurant in the malls or any shops teeming with locals.

                                                                                                              2. l
                                                                                                                Lizard RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 2, 2010 07:36 AM

                                                                                                                This thread is entertaining, but I'll admit that as I made my way through, I imagined another, similar thread asking if 'hot dogs' were authentic American food. Then would come the following points:

                                                                                                                * Those that would say no because of the sausage origins-- then a sausage subthread and discussions of migration would begin. Could something that may have been German be American? Can it be authentic?

                                                                                                                * Those that would quibble with toppings. 'Tomatoes and onions?' someone would write, 'oh you didn't have an authentic hot dog at all'. 'Actually,' another hound would note, 'that sounds like it's been "dragged through the garden" and is a Chicago dog. There are multiple regions in the US, after all-- it's ridiculous to say "American" like it means a single thing.

                                                                                                                * Those that would attest to their time in the states, and point out that in all the restaurants they visited, very few, if any, actually offered hot dogs as a menu item. Some would say yes, others would then write of their cart experiences, which are, of course, truly 'authentic'.

                                                                                                                * But all those carts by tourist spots? Surely they are inauthentic tourist traps!

                                                                                                                * And then the ketchup question....

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Lizard
                                                                                                                  jgg13 RE: Lizard Sep 2, 2010 08:05 AM

                                                                                                                  That thread has actually already appeared on CH numerous times ;)

                                                                                                                2. n
                                                                                                                  nhung RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 4, 2010 01:11 AM

                                                                                                                  Ketchup in Pad Thai? Must have been in a hotel eatery or a market setup for tourists!

                                                                                                                  TV chefs seldom with maybe the exception be Bourdain visit the "real" deal here is Thailand as the lack of refrigeration in a street stall upsets there sensitive GI tracts.

                                                                                                                  Pad Thai is street food nothing more and the only red colouring I have ever seen comes from the "Goong Heng" or dried shrimps or maybe tamarind water!

                                                                                                                  In 35 plus years living here from Isaan to Pak Thai I have never seen a street vendor use ketchup in his pad thai it would cost too much!

                                                                                                                  23 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: nhung
                                                                                                                    ZenSojourner RE: nhung Sep 4, 2010 01:15 AM

                                                                                                                    Excellent point! LOL!

                                                                                                                    And I think it is sit-down restaurants that have reportedly been using ketchup in their Pad Thai.

                                                                                                                    Given I've never been in Thailand and am unlikely to ever go there, the only thing I can say definitively is that there's no ketchup in my Pad Thai.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner
                                                                                                                      klyeoh RE: ZenSojourner Sep 4, 2010 07:44 AM

                                                                                                                      Unlikely to go to Thailand? But why, the world's a small place these days, Zen Sojourner, and a visit to Bangkok will give you the opportunity to taste real Thai food, which is eons ahead of the Americanized versions you get in the US.

                                                                                                                      1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                                                        ZenSojourner RE: klyeoh Sep 4, 2010 03:28 PM

                                                                                                                        Money. And I make my own most of the time anyway.

                                                                                                                        1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                                                          thew RE: klyeoh Sep 4, 2010 04:28 PM

                                                                                                                          the word americanized has zero meaning.

                                                                                                                          i've had great pad thai here and in thailand. and guess what - i've had mediocre and piss poor pad thai here and in thailand

                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                            ZenSojourner RE: thew Sep 4, 2010 08:42 PM

                                                                                                                            That's kind of my take on things most of the time anyway. Plus, with "globalization" and the increasing level of travel and education in places like Thailand and India, better infrastructure, more common availability of communications, refrigeration, etc., "authentic" dishes are being changed as new ingredients and ideas come in from areas that were previously hard to get to.

                                                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                                                              klyeoh RE: thew Sep 6, 2010 03:16 AM

                                                                                                                              You've certainly got a point there! I'd had bad American food in the US, and some of the best burgers and NY-style cheesecakes in Singapore.

                                                                                                                        2. re: nhung
                                                                                                                          thew RE: nhung Sep 4, 2010 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                          i've spent many months in thailand. in people's homes, in non-farang touristy resaturants, etc. ketchup is a very common ingredient in the thai kitchen. just as japan has embraced mayo, thailand seems to love ketchup.

                                                                                                                          now, i agree pad thai is usually a street food, and the street vendors do not use ketchup, for just the reason you state - the cost, not the taste.

                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                            grayelf RE: thew Sep 4, 2010 10:58 PM

                                                                                                                            I recently spoke with a Thai national who has just opened her own restaurant in Vancouver. She lamented to our table (a group of Chowhounds) that she felt she had to have two versions of pad thai on her menu, one "original" -- made with tamarind -- and the other with ketchup. She told us that most Canadians want the ketchupy version. She was embarassed to put ketchup in pad thai, intimating that this was not done where she was from.

                                                                                                                            I have my own theories about why ketchup has become a fairly common ingredient in pad thai "stateside" FWIW. Pad thai made with tamarind comes out brownish, whereas with ketchup it is a cheery reddish colour. Also it tends to be sweeter with ketchup whose number one ingredient is sugar I believe. Just theories of course... but I do know I will not willingly eat pad thai with ketchup, not because it is inauthentic but because I hate ketchup!

                                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf
                                                                                                                              penang_rojak RE: grayelf Sep 5, 2010 07:05 PM

                                                                                                                              Speaking of ketchup, there's a typical "Thai" dish which you'd be hard-pressed to find outside Thailand, but a favourite in cafes, family-style restaurants & places frequented by local Thais:- the American fried rice. Basically, it's fried rice with tomato ketchup (and sometimes sprinkled with raisins), garnished with a piece of fried chicken (wing or drumstick), a sunny-side-up fried egg, and cocktail frankfurter sausages (with their ends cut, so when fried, the sausages morph into flowerettes). In some places, raisins were sometimes added to the fried rice. I don't know how the dish came about, but guess that it started during the Vietnam War period, when GIs used Thailand as an R&R destination. Local cooks look at the Americans' eating habits & what their food was like:- sausages, fried chicken, eggs, ketchup, etc, and then when ahead an created an "American fried rice" composed of all these ingredients. Of course, it is a unique "Thai"" dish.

                                                                                                                              1. re: penang_rojak
                                                                                                                                ZenSojourner RE: penang_rojak Sep 5, 2010 09:01 PM

                                                                                                                                Hey, if we can pervert the cuisine of other countries, they should feel free to pervert ours!


                                                                                                                            2. re: thew
                                                                                                                              Bada Bing RE: thew Sep 6, 2010 01:56 PM

                                                                                                                              Ketchup is simply one more kind of condiment, and by now it's quite international. But this isn't the first thread where I've been struck by how energetically scornful people can be about it. There's some interesting class dimension to it all, but I'm not sure where or how its low-brow reputation evolved. Hamburgers as plebeian food? Ketchup on steak as beef-eater heresy?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                                                                small h RE: Bada Bing Sep 6, 2010 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                                This is interesting to me as well. I don't think it's a class distinction. I suggest that for some contributors to these boards, ketchup represents American hegemony. Other cultures aren't employing an American condiment; rather, America is foisting its condiments on other cultures. And this is wrong and bad.

                                                                                                                                1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                  alkapal RE: small h Sep 6, 2010 05:49 PM

                                                                                                                                  ketchup as a proxy for american hegemony? that IS funny. and those who resent it? that is not surprising. but soy sauce, that's no issue, right? that's just "good eats" and good eats travel! <irony alert>

                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                    small h RE: alkapal Sep 6, 2010 06:13 PM

                                                                                                                                    I'd love to hear other theories. But it does seem like there are certain condiments that are credited with adding (cough) authenticity - soy sauce, hot sauce, fish sauce. And then there's ketchup, which somehow destroys it. This is a lot of baggage for one little red paste to shoulder.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                      grayelf RE: small h Sep 6, 2010 07:36 PM

                                                                                                                                      I just really dislike ketchup (or catsup). Always have, even as a child. I don't know why. But definitely not because it is representative of the overweening might of the USA :-).

                                                                                                                                      1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                        alkapal RE: small h Sep 7, 2010 05:37 AM

                                                                                                                                        poor little red paste. you're right; his shoulders must be sagging from the weight of the world.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                          chowser RE: small h Sep 7, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                                                                                                          I think people should add whatever they want but as authenticity goes and soy sauce, etc., try starting a thread on Home Cooking that you want to make carbonara with fish sauce and I think you'd get the same response as ketchup on pad thai. And, there is a current, long thread on the wonders of ketchup there right now.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                            thew RE: chowser Sep 7, 2010 07:00 AM

                                                                                                                                            except that no one makes carbonara with fish sauce, and many people, including thais, do use ketchup in pad thai. so it isn't really analogous at all

                                                                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                                                                              chowser RE: thew Sep 7, 2010 10:15 AM

                                                                                                                                              Maybe I will make a carbonara with fish sauce tonight and call it authentic.;-)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                                thew RE: chowser Sep 7, 2010 12:39 PM

                                                                                                                                                authentic doesn't matter, just tell me if it tasted good

                                                                                                                                            2. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                              small h RE: chowser Sep 7, 2010 07:22 AM

                                                                                                                                              That's a different issue. Certain ingredients upset people because they believe food X ought not to be made with ingredient Y. Your fish sauce/carbonara example falls into this category, there's a current thread about whether tomatoes belong in gumbo, and I personally look askance at blueberry bagels. Then there's grayelf, who dislikes ketchup - that's just individual taste. But ketchup seems to inspire a whole 'nother level of horror, and I don't think it's about ketchup the ingredient. I think it's about ketchup the symbol.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: small h
                                                                                                                                                chowser RE: small h Sep 7, 2010 10:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                I don't see an anti-American thread disguised as an anti-ketchup thread here.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                                                  small h RE: chowser Sep 7, 2010 10:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                  I never said - or even implied - that this was an anti-American thread. Bada Bing raised the issue of class distinction as one reason people were so "energetically scornful" of ketchup, and I added my thoughts.

                                                                                                                                2. s
                                                                                                                                  spinachandchocolate RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 6, 2010 10:54 AM

                                                                                                                                  Yes, just got back from Thailand. There it's often street food (and so so amazing compared to the very best Thai restaurant I've been to in the States) and usually only about $1 with meat!

                                                                                                                                  1. luckyfatima RE: The Dairy Queen Sep 7, 2010 06:42 AM

                                                                                                                                    I have taken some very authentic Thai cooking classes. Although I *hate* the sweet tart tomatoey undertaste of ketchup in pad thai as well, in a couple of the classes I took, the instructors used a dash of ketchup in the pad thai sauce they created. They also used coconut palm sugar and tamarind. The ketchup was just another ingredient to give extra depth and oomph. They also used tiny dried shrimp and chopped pickled turnips, two ingredients I think would put off the so called "pad thai crowd" (oh lookey this little thing has eyes and legs!!!). I think authenticity is important, but it must also be remembered that what is authentic evolves in its place of origin. Using things like maggi sauce and ketchup in Chinese and South East Asian food is acceptable to the people to whom these cuisines belong. That makes them authentic, though maybe new. (I realize that ketchup has been around in the region for a long time, but I am talking about the American style yet often locally seasoned bottled ketchup that is now popular, often under Maggi and also local brands, in many countries) Tomatoes were new to the Italians, once.

                                                                                                                                    I am okay with ketchup in pad thai as long as I can't taste it as a dominant flavor. Same thing with some stir fry sauces at Chinese restos. That is based on my personal taste, though. The pad thai recipe I use at home does not contain ketchup.

                                                                                                                                    I agree with the above mentioned excess peanut thing being an American crowd pleasing addition to pad thai. I also read that in Thailand pad thai is fairly dry but that a very wet pad thai is something seen more in US Thai restos.

                                                                                                                                    1. Samuelinthekitchen RE: The Dairy Queen Dec 6, 2010 03:13 AM

                                                                                                                                      very interesting question actually - of Thai dishes it has one of the most fascinating and surprising origins incorporating regional politics and resurgent nationalism. The best explanation is the link about half way down this page - http://www.gastronomica.org/issues090... .

                                                                                                                                      1. h
                                                                                                                                        Hamano RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 6, 2012 06:00 AM



                                                                                                                                        from the two Link above, you will know that pad thai isn't even really Thai at all...

                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Hamano
                                                                                                                                          klyeoh RE: Hamano Apr 6, 2012 09:30 AM

                                                                                                                                          Not in its origins (brought to Thailand by Cambodian traders, most probably), but it *is* considered Thai now. After all, Cambodian fried noodles (e.g. "Mi Cha") these days are quite different from "authentic" Pad Thai which you'll find on the streets of Bangkok & anywhere else in Thailand. And nothing in Chinese cuisine resembled pad Thai, with its use of palm sugar, tamarind, crushed peanuts, chilli flakes, etc.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                                                                            limster RE: klyeoh Apr 6, 2012 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                            Exactly -- there's nothing in Chinese cuisine, even Teochew cooking which is rather influential in Thai cuisine, that combines that set of ingredients.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                                                                              Hamano RE: klyeoh Apr 14, 2012 04:10 AM

                                                                                                                                              for Pad Thai, if the rice noodles is replaced with spaghetti and all other ingredients keep the same, I think it still tastes not bad. But I am curious that you think the dish is Thai food or Italian food?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Hamano
                                                                                                                                                cacruden RE: Hamano Apr 14, 2012 04:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                At the beginning - it would be Thai - Italian fusion. Students here in Thailand will make "Italian" with spagetti and ketchup - is that Italian?

                                                                                                                                                What the future holds is all speculative. A lot of food starts out as fusion of ideas and in a somewhat Darwinian way food evolves. Thai food today is not Thai food of 200+ years ago, Italian food today is not Italian food of 200+ years ago - it has evolved over time. Local tastes will determine whether it becomes "Italian" or dies.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: cacruden
                                                                                                                                                  Hamano RE: cacruden Apr 14, 2012 05:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                  so, by your logic, Pad Thai would be Thai - Chinese fusion.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Hamano
                                                                                                                                                    cacruden RE: Hamano Apr 14, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                    you did not read the whole post did you - it started out as a fusion - but now is Thai.

                                                                                                                                                    Just as a couple hundred years ago pasta noodles in Italia started as a fusion and now as Italian. I notice you avoiding answering any of my straw men questions ...

                                                                                                                                                2. re: Hamano
                                                                                                                                                  cacruden RE: Hamano Apr 14, 2012 04:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Are all Japanese noodles dishes not Japanese? Are all Italian noodle dishes not Italian? Is all wok based cooking chinese? Rice noodles replaced by other noodles would be more likely done in Thailand than Italia because of all the other ingredients are not readily available in Italia. I just think you are bringing this to a level of hypothetical absurdity.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Hamano
                                                                                                                                                cacruden RE: Hamano Apr 6, 2012 05:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                Pad Thai is Thai..... It is a more modern dish (but) created to create a thai version of fried noodles sold at street level. All food evolves. I have read puritans argue some ingredients used by a noted Thai restaurant are not truly Thai but if that is a criteria then all food made with chilies and tomatoes would not be "true" Thai food. (Thai Chilies are only a couple hundred years of use here (brought by Portuguese from the Americas), tomatoes -- same, Eggplants - also not native to Thailand, wok frying - from china, coconut bases from curries ... from India... Similarly for "Italian" cooking, and others....

                                                                                                                                                Next people will be arguing that Papaya Salad (Som Tam) is not Thai/Isan? (Tomatoes, Chilies are relatively new).

                                                                                                                                                If "Food Puritans" had their way, most food on Thai restaurants menu would be Thai -- and people would be staring at a blank menu..... pretty boring world it would be.

                                                                                                                                              3. c
                                                                                                                                                cacruden RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 6, 2012 07:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                One version I like:

                                                                                                                                                Pad Thai Sauce


                                                                                                                                                2 tablespoons palm sugar
                                                                                                                                                3 tablespoons tamarind sauce
                                                                                                                                                1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce


                                                                                                                                                1. Pad Thai Sauce: Cook palm sugar in a wok until brown and bubbly. Add tamarind juice and fish sauce then mix well. Cook for a few minutes until it thickens to a syrup consistency.

                                                                                                                                                Pad Thai Sai Khai (Fried Noodles with Egg)


                                                                                                                                                -- Fried Pork --
                                                                                                                                                50 grams lean pork, thinly sliced
                                                                                                                                                1 cake firm tofu, cut into small cubes
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon thai garlic, chopped
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon thai shallots, sliced
                                                                                                                                                50 grams sweet pickled turnip, finely diced
                                                                                                                                                3 tablespoons soy bean oil
                                                                                                                                                -- Prawns --
                                                                                                                                                9 prawns, medium size, shelled and deveined
                                                                                                                                                3 tablespoons soy bean oil, use same oil as fried pork
                                                                                                                                                -- Noodles --
                                                                                                                                                300 grams narrow dried rice noodles
                                                                                                                                                3 tablespoons water
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon soy bean oil
                                                                                                                                                -- Stir-Fry --
                                                                                                                                                3 eggs, cracked in a bowl
                                                                                                                                                pad thai sauce
                                                                                                                                                1 teaspoon ground dried chili
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon ground peanuts
                                                                                                                                                500 grams bean sprouts
                                                                                                                                                50 grams chinese chives, cut into short lengths
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
                                                                                                                                                1 tablespoon spring onions, chopped
                                                                                                                                                2 tablespoons soy bean oil
                                                                                                                                                -- Garnish --
                                                                                                                                                chili flakes
                                                                                                                                                ground peanuts
                                                                                                                                                1 lime, cut into 3 wedges


                                                                                                                                                1. Fried Pork: Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add tofu then stir-fry until light brown, which will take approximately 2 minutes. Add garlic and shallots then stir-fry together with tofu until flavours are released while making sure not to brown. Add pork and pickled radish then stir-fry until pork is cooked, which will take approximately a minute.

                                                                                                                                                2. Prawns: Heat the same oil from the pork in a wok over medium heat. Add prawns then fry for approximately 30 seconds. Flip the prawns over then fry until the prawn's tails turns pinkish red.

                                                                                                                                                3. Noodles: Heat oil in a wok. Add noodles and water then stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes until noodles are soft. If fresh noodles are used then the cooking times and water will be less.

                                                                                                                                                4. Pad Thai: Heat oil in a wok making sure to coat the sides of the wok with oil. Pour the eggs down the side of the wok so that the eggs coat the side of the walk starting approximately half way down from the top of the wok. Bring yokes together in one corner of the wok then break the yolks. Add noodles into the centre of the yolks. With a spatula flip the noodles and eggs so that the eggs are on the top. Set some of this egg aside for decorating. Add pad thai sauce to the noodles then mix well. Add the pork then mix well. Add ground peanuts, ground chilies and prawns then mix well. Make a well in the noodles and add bean sprouts to the middle then sprinkle with chives, coriander and spring onions. Mix well then turn off the heat.

                                                                                                                                                5. Serve: Decorate with egg. Serve with coarsely crushed peanuts, chinese chives, lime wedges and bean sprouts on the side.

                                                                                                                                                6. Condiments: Hot chili flakes, sugar and fish sauce.

                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: cacruden
                                                                                                                                                  cacruden RE: cacruden Apr 6, 2012 07:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                  sweet pickled turnip - I believe that is basically a Diakon shredded then pickled in vinegar and water with sugar then sun dried for a few days.

                                                                                                                                                  Note: Earlier in this post there was a discussion of ketchup and Pad Thai. I have seen it used in Thailand at a few locations BUT I don't think it is used to impart much taste to the noodles, but as a means to adjust the colouring of the noodles (end result) - Make the noodles a little darker (not red). My guess is some american saw it used and thought -- if a little is good, more is better and then created ketchup noodles :o

                                                                                                                                                  I know that sometimes dark soy sauce to darken noodles before they are cooked in other recipes. Colour, smell, and flavour balancing is important in Thai cooking.

                                                                                                                                                  Funny thing is ketchup is used here as a condiment for pizza :o So you never know.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cacruden
                                                                                                                                                    cacruden RE: cacruden Apr 6, 2012 08:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Also, if someone taught a recipe with ketchup here it would not be the same as American ketchup....

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cacruden
                                                                                                                                                    klyeoh RE: cacruden Apr 6, 2012 09:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Now *that* is a true Pad Thai dish :-)

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