The classic Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries all over Thailand. It is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, red chili pepper, and palm sugar. It may also contain fresh shrimp, crab, or chicken.
In the 1950s, the Thai government promoted rice noodles to help establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle named “sen chan” was created. This noodle is suitable to be stir-fried in a pan, and the resulting dish was called Pad Thai. The meats and vegetables in this dish are similar to some kinds of food prepared by the Cantonese, although the flavours and textures are typically Thai. Today, some food vendors add pork chops to enhance the taste, although some food vendors still use the original recipe. Pad Thai is a fast and nutritious dish, and has become popular in many countries around the world, not just in Thailand.
I suspect that when the Viet traders brought their noodles over to Thailand it was similar to what we now know as Pho, which is the national dish of Vietnam. The Thais, however, changed these Vietnamese noodles to suit their own tastes, and created the famous Pad Thai – and over the years this has itself became Thailand’s National Dish! What is it about Asia and their noodles?! I especially love the egg-based variety where the noodles and ingredients are wrapped in an omelette! If you are lucky, you will see this being prepared for you in the streets while you wait! It only takes the vendors around a minute to cook and serve the Pad Thai.
You cannot walk down Khao San Road in Bangkok, or through the Chiang Mai night market without being persuaded to buy some freshly-cooked Pad Thai from the street vendors there. That said, Pad Thai is not quite as popular in the south of the currently (I guess seafood is the order of the day down there), and even in pasar malams in Malaysia or hawkers in Singapore, I cannot find Pad Thai too frequently, which is a shame. However, it is certainly an institution when in Thailand, and you cannot come here and not try it for yourself!