Pad Thai: Dig into the Astonishing Facts about Thailand’s National Dish

Last updated on October 6th, 2023 at 02:36 pm

Pad Thai, a dish that has become synonymous with Thailand’s culinary identity, is a stir-fried noodle dish often served as street food and at casual local eateries. It’s a blend of flavors—sweet, sour, salty—and textures—soft noodles, crunchy peanuts—that create an experience beloved by many.

Our team at Remitly created this guide as part of our series that celebrates the traditional dishes of our global customers. Let’s dive in.

The Origins of Pad Thai

The history of Pad Thai is as rich and complex as its flavor profile. It was born out of necessity during World War II when Thailand faced rice shortages. To reduce domestic rice consumption, the government promoted eating noodles instead. Thus, Pad Thai—a simple yet flavorful dish made from readily available ingredients—was introduced.

Despite its relatively recent origin, Pad Thai quickly gained popularity among Thais and foreigners alike. Today, it stands as one of the most recognized dishes from Thailand worldwide.

Ingredients Used in Pad Thai

The beauty of Pad Thai lies in its simplicity. At its core are flat rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and tofu or shrimp. The magic happens when tamarind paste—a sour fruit native to Africa—is added for tanginess along with fish sauce for umami depth.

A sprinkle of crushed peanuts adds crunch, while lime wedges on the side allow diners to adjust the acidity to their liking. Bean sprouts and chives bring freshness to this otherwise hearty dish.

The Art of Cooking Pad Thai

Cooking Pad Thai is an art form that requires balance and timing. The key is to keep the wok hot but not too hot; otherwise, the noodles will stick together or burn before they’re fully cooked.

Firstly, soak the rice noodles until they’re soft but still firm to bite. Then heat oil in a wok before adding protein (tofu or shrimp), followed by eggs, which are scrambled until just set. Add the soaked noodles along with tamarind paste and fish sauce, then stir-fry until everything is well combined.

Recipe for Authentic Pad Thai to Make It at Home

Creating your own Pad Thai at home can be a rewarding experience. Start by sourcing authentic ingredients—tamarind paste, fish sauce, flat rice noodles—from an Asian grocery store or online.

Remember that cooking is about experimenting and adjusting to your taste. So feel free to tweak the recipe until you find your perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started. Happy cooking!


  • 200g flat rice noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 200g tofu or shrimp
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • A handful of bean sprouts and chives, chopped
  • Crushed peanuts and lime wedges for serving


  1. Soak the rice noodles in warm water until they’re soft but still firm to bite.
  2. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add tofu or shrimp and stir-fry until cooked through.
  3. Push the protein to one side of the wok and pour the eggs into the other side. Scramble until just set.
  4. Drain the soaked noodles and add them to the wok along with tamarind paste, fish sauce, and sugar.
  5. Stir-fry everything together until well combined.
  6. Toss in bean sprouts and chives, then stir-fry for another minute.
  7. Serve hot with crushed peanuts and lime wedges on the side.

Variations of Pad Thai Across Thailand

While the basic recipe remains the same, variations of Pad Thai can be found across Thailand. In some regions, dried shrimp or pickled radish is added for an extra layer of flavor. Others might use different types of noodles or add more vegetables.

In touristy areas, you’ll find versions catering to Western palates with less spice and more sweetness. Regardless of the variation, the essence of Pad Thai—its balance of flavors and textures—remains.

Health Benefits of Eating Pad Thai

Pad Thai isn’t just delicious—it’s also nutritious. The dish is a good source of protein from tofu or shrimp and eggs. It also provides carbohydrates from rice noodles, which are gluten-free and easier to digest compared to wheat-based noodles.

Moreover, tamarind paste used in Pad Thai is rich in antioxidants while bean sprouts are packed with vitamins C and K. However, like any dish, moderation is key due to its high sodium content from fish sauce.

How to Enjoy Pad Thai Like a Local

To truly enjoy Pad Thai like a local, forget about using a fork and knife. Instead, use a spoon and fork—the spoon is used for eating while the fork helps push food onto the spoon.

Also, remember that customization is part of the experience. Feel free to squeeze lime juice for extra tanginess or sprinkle more peanuts for crunchiness. Some locals even add sugar for sweetness or chili flakes for heat.

Popular Places to Try Pad Thai in Thailand

Thailand offers countless places where you can try authentic Pad Thai—from street vendors to sit-down restaurants. In Bangkok alone, Thip Samai and Baan Phadthai are often acknowledged as serving some of the most appreciated versions.

For those venturing north to Chiang Mai, Khao Soi Khun Yai serves up northern-style Pad Thai that’s worth trying. Remember that each place has its own take on this classic dish, so don’t hesitate to try Pad Thai from different places.

Exploring Thai Cuisine Beyond Pad Thai

Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors, intricate preparation methods, and diverse ingredients.

The Four Pillars of Thai Flavors

Thai food is often characterized by its balance of four fundamental flavors: sweet (sugar), sour (lime), salty (fish sauce), and spicy (chilies). This harmony creates dishes that are complex yet satisfying.

Popular Dishes in Thailand

Beyond Pad Thai, there are many other dishes worth exploring in Thai cuisine:

  • Tom Yum Goong: A hot and sour shrimp soup that’s both fragrant and flavorful.
  • Som Tam: A spicy green papaya salad that’s refreshing and tangy.
  • Green Curry: A rich and creamy curry made with green chilies, coconut milk, and a variety of herbs.
  • Mango Sticky Rice: A popular dessert featuring sweet ripe mangoes served with sticky rice and drizzled with coconut cream.

Regional Variations

Thai cuisine varies by region. Central Thai food is often sweeter, while Northeastern (Isan) food is spicier. Southern Thai cuisine features more seafood and has a heavier use of turmeric. Northern Thai food is milder, with a focus on bitter and sour flavors.

Exploring Thai cuisine can be an exciting culinary journey—one filled with delicious discoveries beyond Pad Thai.

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