Pad Thai Captures Heart, Palate

Michael Roe

Is Michael Roe being a culture vulture, or i he on the path to culinary enlightenment?

When I told my Thai pen-pal, Daw Sintawichai, that I was writing an entire article on his favorite dish, Pad Thai, he responded: “you cannot write an entire piece on Pad Thai. It’s an excellent dish, flavorful, indeed; however your obsession with the dish only exposes your Americanism, in that, once trying the dish, you think that you can accurately represent a stable of Thai cuisine. Frankly, it’s insulting. You’re a fool. Your penmanship sucks.”

At this point, I terminated my priendship with Daw, because he was wrong. I could write an article on Pad Tai, and my penmanship doesn’t suck. So, I write this article with the intention of educating the Miramonte community about the intricacies and delicacies of the Thai cuisine and to prove to Daw that he was wrong, and I, in fact, was right.

First off, in order to fully enjoy Pad Thai, I needed to understand its humble origins. I went to the most knowledgeable person I know: Wikipedia, and I asked him about Pad Thai. What I found out was astounding.

Now what is Pad Thai? Good question. Combine stir-fried noodles with eggs, a finely cooked fish sauce, tamarind juice, and a dash of red chili pepper. For extra flavor, one may add bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, and tofu, alongside crushed peanuts or coriander.

Its creation originated as an element of Prime Minister Luang Philbunsongkhram’s political campaign for Thai nationalism and centralization, and an effort to reduce rice consumption. The campaign gave birth to rice noodles; they were used as the widespread staple of Thai cuisine following World War II, leading to the creation of Pad Thai among other dishes.

Next, I made my way to the local Baan Thai restaurant located on Orinda Way. I struck up conversation with my waitress Sam, one of the only English-speaking employees. Born and raised in Isaan, Thailand, Sam enjoyed the exquisite home cooking of her mother’s Pad Thai, a defining memory of her fragile childhood. After her mother’s death caused by rabies, Sam immigrated to the United States where she currently works as a waitress.

Sam recommends Pad Thai stating, “it’s a staple of Thai food; it’s easy to make. It’s one of the most popular entrées on the menu.” Costing a mere $7.95, Baan Thai’s Pad Thai is an opportunity no Orindian should ignore.

A poignant aroma from the nearby kitchen in combination with authentic Thai artwork that surrounds the restaurant provided an ideal dining experience. I will caution the reader, however, that Pad Thai is a difficult meal to consume, often falling from the fork and onto the table, my shirt and even my crotch.

Lastly, I attempted to cook Pad Thai, using purchased ingredients from the local farmer’s market. Unfortunately, I failed. I make a mess.

In conclusion to my Pad Thai journey, I sent another letter to Daw. I included the article, to which he never responded.  As I wait, reflecting on my experiences familiarizing myself with Pad Thai, I can only hope that Daw perhaps stumbles upon my findings, realizing his mistake.