Pad Thai is enjoyed around the world. But do you know the dish’s history?
Pad Thai Origins
Pachat Tiptus, Decoding Thainess Curator of Museum Siam said,
“It’s a famous food that people have come to know as a (Thai) national dish but it’s an invention. It was created during Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s rule around the World War 2 era.
Other foods that came on to the scene at the same time as Pad Thai or maybe even before, and may have influenced the origins of Pad Thai, were Korat noodles and crispy noodles.
The origins of Pad Thai remain ambiguous, as there are many factors that aligned during that period. It was an era in which nationalism existed.
The nationalism during Field Marshal Phibun was also happening in Germany, Italy and various countries during the World War 2 period.
During Phibun’s rule, there was a policy to encourage people to eat noodle soup because back then we produced rice for export in large quantities.
He wanted to push rice as a product for many things. One of these was rice noodles. Under the nationalism policies of Phibun, he viewed pork as a symbol of Chinese food. Pork meat was expensive and Chinese food tended to include pork meat.
So he decided people should eat Thai food that did not contain pork. But the funny thing is that with the rice noodles used to create Pad Thai, the early stir-fry technique and the dish’s ingredients all had Chinese influence.
Take pickled radish – that was a Chinese technique to preserve vegetables. Tofu is also a Chinese ingredient. Even chives or bean sprouts. All of these vegetables that are in Pad Thai are Chinese vegetables.
Another theory of Pad Thai Origins
Another theory on Pad Thai is that during the World War 2 era there was a big flood in Bangkok, in 1942, and some say the dish was created then.
All the ingredients were commonly found in Thai kitchens of the time. You can see that only dry ingredients were used to make Pad Thai, it did not contain any fresh meat. There was no pork.
Pad Thai that contained shrimp only came into existence later on. Even though our method is the same stir-fry technique derived from China, with ingredients mostly from China, Pad Thai is an invention that came from Thailand, that doesn’t exist in China.
Pad Thai is an interesting dish that documents a part of Thai history very well.