Phad Thai is a very popular dish in Thailand. Some foodies actually think of it as Thailand’s “national dish”. Here is an easy-to-follow recipe from an accomplished hotel chef that has elevated the dish to the status of “haute cuisine” with the addition of Canadian lobster.
The Back Story
In fact, I have even heard of Phad Thai being compared to Peking Duck, though I find this a bit of a stretch. Phad Thai is, after all, a kind of street food and not something you would serve at a state banquet.
Which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a loyal legion of followers. As you probably already know, Bangkok’s street food is considered by many fanatical foodies to be the world’s best.
According to CNN Go, Phad Thai came in Number Five in a list of the “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods” in a poll of readers published in 2011.
Interesting enough, when I did some fact-checking on Google, I discovered that Phad Thai had dropped off CNN’s top 50 list altogether.
Peking Duck, meanwhile, is now occupying fifth place.
Phad Thai Defined
A stir-fried dish made with rice noodles, Phad Thai is usually served by street-side vendors and at casual eateries or in food courts. But it is not usually served at fine-dining restaurants.
In addition to rice noodles, other key ingredients include eggs, chopped tofu, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chilli peppers, and palm sugar.
Raw bean sprouts, shallots, lime wedges, and chopped roasted peanuts are often served on the side as condiments.
There are, of course, many variations. Some chefs, for example, use fresh shrimp rather than dried shrimp. And some chefs ad the bean sprouts and shallots during the cooking process.
Can adding lobster elevate this humble dish – usually served on the streets of Bangkok – to the ranks of haute cuisine?
I learned how to make Phad Thai Noodles with Canadian Lobster at Radius, an all-day dining restaurant at Cape Dara, a beachfront resort hotel in Pattaya, Thailand.
First, the chef demonstrated to us how it was done. Then my traveling companion and I tried our hands at cooking the dish one by one.
Following our cooking lesson, we consumed the dish for lunch. That night we returned to Radius for a mouth-watering dinner.
You will need the following ingredients to make the dish:
- 1-1/4 cups rice noodle (for making Phad Thai)
- 1 Canadian lobster
- ½ cup yellow tofu (cut in 1/3 inch thick slices)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons shallots
- 1 teaspoon minced radishes
- 3 tablespoons Chinese chives
- 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- A piece a lime
- 2 tablespoons Phat Thai dressing (see below)
- 2 tablespoons chicken stock
- 1-1/4 tablespoons cooking oil
Phad Thai Dressing
You will need the following ingredients to make the dressing …
- 1-1/4 tablespoons Tamarind juice
- 1-1/4 tablespoons palm sugar
- 1-1/4 tablespoons fish sauce
This is how it’s done:
- Mix ingredients for the Phad Thai dressing and boil for about 10 minutes; set aside
- Heat the pan, add oil, fry the Canadian lobster, and set aside.
- Pour oil into the pan; add radish and dry; follow with shallots and Phad Thai sauce. Stir to combine
- First, add eggs; then add rice noodles; then add chicken stock
- Stir everything together; when noodles start to soften, stir again to combine
- Add bean sprouts and chives; stir, but don’t overcook
- Finish with raw bean sprouts, Chinese chives, ground peanuts, and a piece of lime.
If you don’t have access to Canadian Lobster, or you find it too intimidating to cook it at home, you can substitute fresh shrimp or prawns or even chicken!
Pronunciation and Spelling Tips
English speakers are often confused by the way certain Thai sounds are rendered in English. To complicate the issue, the same words are often spelt more than one way.
Take Phad Thai, for example. It is often spelled Pad Thai. So how should it be pronounced?
Whether it is spelled with a “p” as in Pad Thai or a “ph” as in Phad Thai, it should be always be pronounced as a “p”, and the “a” should be pronounced like “awe” as in “paw”.
But this is so as not to confuse non-Thai speakers. Actually “p” should be pronounced like a “b” in English. And “ph” should be prononouced like a “p” in English.
Clarification – “P ” vs “Ph” and “T” vs “Th”
When Thai is transliterated into English, an “h” is often added after a consonant to indicate that it is aspirated and to distinguish it from an unaspirated consonant.
A simple “t” is pronounced like an English “d”, while a “th” is pronounced like a like an English “t”.
Thus the “h” in Thailand indicates that the initial “t” should be pronounced as an English “t” rather than an English “d”.
If “Thailand” were spelt “Tailand”, it would be pronounced “DIE-land”.
Likewise, a simple “p” is pronounced like an English “b”, while a “ph” is pronounced like a like an English “p”.
This can cause confusion for English speakers because they assume that a “ph” should be pronounced like an “f”, leading many people to mispronounce Phuket, a popular Thai beach resort, as “FOO-ket” rather than “POO-ket”.
Regardless of whether it is spelled with a “ph” or a “p”, Phad Thai should be pronounced “Pawd-Tie”, with “pawd” rhyming with “awed”.
Unlike Chinese, which has a standardized way of transliterating Mandarin words into English, there is no such standardization in Thailand.
For this reason, Phad Thai is sometimes rendered as Pad Thai.
I found this particularly confusing when I visited Bangkok for the first time because the place names on maps and in guidebooks were often spelt differently from the way they were spelled at Skytrain stations.
Want to Know More?
Radius – Cape Dara, 256 Dara Beach, Soi 20, Pattaya, Thailand. Tel: 66 (0) 38 933 888. Check out your favourite hotel booking website for guest reviews and hotel room rates: TripAdvisor.com or Hotels.com
Cape Dara’s Recipe for Phad Thai: this is arguably one of the yummiest Phad Thai recipes I’ve ever come across!