The Lie about Pad Thai

5 Jul

As the few people who read this blog know, Thai food tends to be a favourite subject of mine.  At the end of every visit I publish the food porn edition. It highlights the stuff I’ve eaten during my stay.  Most of it has been  eaten at one of our own facilities.  However, I often eat in restaurants and hawker stalls as well.  Sometimes, I even make a meal by myself, although that’s a rare occurrence.

One of the highlight dishes I seem to always come back to is Pad Thai, the famous egg/noodle dish.  Everyone knows about Pad Thai.  It’s a Thai national dish, famous around the world.  We even have a chicken farm dedicated to producing wonderfully fresh eggs to help make our Pad Thai taste even better.  

Well, I have news for you.  It turns out that Pad Thai wasn’t invented in Thailand and was only popularized in the not too distant past and not hundreds of years ago, as Thais will have all of us believe.

I recently read an article called ‘The political history of Thailand’s internationally beloved noodle dish’ and was surprised at what I read.  Here are some key points.

  • It wasn’t invented in Thailand.  It seems that its birthplace was in China back in the 1700’s.
  • It was popularized as a marketing effort by a general who staged a coup and then became prime minister. (That sounds familiar.) His name was Plaek Phibunsongkhram. (Don’t try pronouncing it.  His nickname was Phibun.)
  • It only started to get traction in the late 1930’s and was not eaten widely in Thailand before Phibun started to promote it.

So Pad Thai is not originally Thai and was not really eaten by Thais until about 80 years ago.  Oh well.  I still love it even if its back story is not quite true.  For the whole story, please check out the article.  It’s a quick read and quite entertaining.

By the way, the first photo above is Pad Thai made in our kitchens with our wonderful fresh eggs and ingredients.  The last three photos are of Pad Thai from a very famous restaurant in Bangkok that claims to have invented the dish.  (Oops!) It’s still tastes wonderful, so who cares about a little fib.

2 thoughts on “The Lie about Pad Thai

  1. Lies or not, those are some good looking Pad Thai images!!
    It is all about the individuality of the derivation. After all aren’t all things derivative?

    • Perhaps this goes back to our conversation on French Fries. Were they invented in France? If so, then the name makes sense. In the case of Pad Thai, where the dish was not invented in Thailand, it seems the name was picked only for marketing purposes. But whatever, Pad Thai is still wonderful and it seems like the closest current dish from China is egg foo young (https://www.chinasichuanfood.com/egg-foo-young/), which is good, but different.

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