It’s fair to say pad Thai has quickly become a worldwide hit — a classic street-food dish consisting of stir-fried noodles, eggs and chopped meat or tofu.
Combining sour, salty and sweet tastes thanks to its diverse ingredients, this dish is also a wonderful combination of noodles, crunchy fresh veggies, dressed in a delicious sweet and tangy sauce.
Contrary to what people think, pad Thai is traditionally not served with chicken or red meat, but instead topped with king prawns, Venzin Group’s head chef Bowyo Muangsong explains. He leads the catering for the family business, that includes four of Brisbane’s best loved cafes and restaurants.
While it may seem like an age-old dish, you wouldn’t have found pad Thai anywhere 80 years ago — even in Thailand.
Muangsong explains that Thailand suffered a major rice shortage during World War II. To preserve this precious grain, the Thai government (under Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram) started to promote rice noodles instead — noodles only used 50 per cent of the grain, so were more economical and cheaper to produce.
She explains: “His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand.”
Pad Thai has since become one of Thailand’s national dishes. Most fascinating however, is where it comes from. Muangsong says many assume it was first introduced by Chinese traders and evolved to reflect traditional Thai flavours.
In fact, just about every ingredient found in pad Thai isn’t native to Thailand — even the dish’s full name ‘kway teow pad Thai’ nods to its Chinese origins (kway teow is Chinese for rice noodles).
The perfect light dinner option, pad Thai is one of the hardest Thai dishes to get right, but keeping a few tricks on-hand can make all the difference.
The key to a perfect pad Thai is in the cooking of the noodles. Muangsong says rice noodles must be soaked in cold water only, adding: “If you soak in hot water the noodles will be too soft and break”.
To avoid noodles sticking together, she insists it’s best to cook them with egg. “[A] vegan option can be made without the egg, but the noodles won’t look as appealing,” Muangsong says.
It’s best to serve them straight away topped with fried or grilled king prawns, dried chilli flakes, roasted peanuts and fresh bean sprouts.
“As the noodles are rich in flavour, you need the fresh vegetables to balance the flavour whilst eating,” she adds. “Pad Thai is best to eat straight away, otherwise the noodles will stick together and the taste may change.”
Sounds tasty? Here’s how to do it!