This traditional, single-pot dish is a staple of Bangkok street food, and is also sold throughout the country in small Thai villages, though its roots are Chinese.
Its full name is kway teow phat Thai, which means Thai-style stir-fried rice noodles. While noodles and stir-frying are traditional of Chinese foods, the addition of flavors like tamarind and chilies has transformed the dish into what we call Pad Thai.
The ideal Pad Thai sits in tenuous equilibrium between the forces of sweet, salty, and sour components. No one component should dominate the others. That said, individual palates may perceive flavors in a slightly different way, so that balance can be subjective. The neutral-flavored ricenoodles used in Pad Thai are well suited for shrimp, chicken, beef, pork or tofu.
Eav Ngov, owner of the Asian Food Store at 1010 7th St. NW in Rochester, offers insight into this popular dish. He notes that the original Chinese version was a quite bland, readily lending itself to local tastes. The incorporation of tamarind makes this dish significantly spicier than its Chinese counterpart.
Indeed, the foundation of Pad Thai lies in the prep work. Typically, spoonfuls of rice noodles are dropped into oil in a searing hot wok, then tossed together with bean sprouts, onion, egg, another source of protein and sauce. The dish is sprinkled with finely chopped peanuts, and served with a lime wedge or fish sauce.
Two Rochester restaurants prove they can set the stage to present satisfying and delicious Pad Thai. Visit Pho Chau, 1014 N Broadway, where hearty portions of this dish are available with a single meat, or tofu, or as a combination of chicken, beef and shrimp. At Mango Thai, 318 S Broadway, a menu standout is the shrimp pad thai. Noodles are topped with four jumbo shrimp prepared in their house tempura style. Not a seafood lover? Try their classic chicken version.