Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pad Thai Paradox







I have this friend. He is good looking, successful, very happily married, and an accomplished Thai cook. I should dislike him intently, but I don't. I owe him my love Thai cuisine because I had never tasted the amazing complexity of flavors in true Thai cooking before he took me out to a Thai restaurant for the first time some years ago.

If you poll a group of occasional Thai diners, they will probably say that "Pad Thai" is one of their favorite dishes, as it is mine. I discovered recently, however, that this is really a name without much meaning. Literally translated, the term "Pad Thai" means "Thai style stir-fried noodles". Leaving a wide range for interpretation. A wonderful recipe (from a wonderful web site and blog) can be found here.

In any event, reading up on this dish on the Thai Food and Travel site, I became aware of the American controversy in the preparation of Pad Thai. Apparently the typical way the noodles are made in Thailand renders the noodles dry and a natural tan color. Some American restaurants put catsup in the noodles to color them and give them more flavor or they add hot pepper sauce with a similar but kicked-up effect. I eat the "red" Pad Thai noodles at restaurants and I always like them. Even though I was uninformed of their lack of "authenticity". I have only had the "drier", tan Pad Thai once. At Trader Vic's. I have a multitude of good Trader Vic's stories that will have to wait to another time. Suffice to say, the difference between the "dry" preparation and the "red" versions is dramatic. A completely different flavor, much more delicate and sophisticated. And, no, I had not imbibed multiple Mai Tais at Trader Vic's before my dinner. Only one. Or perhaps two.

Although I prefer the "dry" style of Pad Thai, I certainly like the "red" style also and I'll eat it again the next time it shows up on my plate. The Epic notion is that if you like the flavor, don't worry about the authenticity. Just enjoy what shows up for you during any given meal. Or in the course of any given day.

8 comments:

BB3 said...

I have to admit Thai is my favorite cuisine but Pad Thai, while excellent, is far down on my list of favorites. Were I stranded an a desert island with only the one restaurant that served only one dish, I would wish it to be Tom Yum Gai. Perhaps the only thing i could eat happily every day from now on. Sawadee!

BB3 said...

I have to admit Thai is my favorite cuisine but Pad Thai, while excellent, is far down on my list of favorites. Were I stranded an a desert island with only the one restaurant that served only one dish, I would wish it to be Tom Yum Gai. Perhaps the only thing i could eat happily every day from now on. Sawadee!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

This has made me extremely hungry. I love Pad Thai. And ketchup?? I had no idea!

Best Pad Thai I had was in Thailand... so I suppose the authentic wins for me.

longwing said...

Where I live it is very hard to find a good Chinese restaurant and very easy to find good Thai. I ordered Pad Thai exclusively for a few years, ultimately tried the various curries and will now eat anything. Love the stuff. Not glad to hear about the ketchup though.

M.Lane said...

I have to admit I was spoiled by the traditional dish I had at Trader's. The problem is that you don't know how it is going to be prepared until you get it! I'm lucky I like it both ways.

ML

The Idiot Gardener said...

Hi there; found your blog through another site.

For me, Pad Thai should be made with rice sticks, the broad type seem favoured by Thais. They are often dipped in egg before being fried, which has led to some (lazy) cooks using egg noodles rather than fresh rice sticks with a light egg coating. Rice sticks are simple to make, but a bit of a faff.

I've never seen flavoured noodles in country; however, in Hoi An (Viet Nam) they have a noodle dish called Cao Lau which is, in my humble opinion, unsurpassed.

What makes Cao Lau noodles different is that the water can only be from one well in the town. This is, of course, a sham, because in all the years I've travelled there, the well has always been dry apart from one time when the locals filled it with river water for visiting US food writers! What does make it different is that the rice paste has fire ash added before it is steamed.

All said, you're right; forget authenticity and eat what tastes good!

M.Lane said...

IG, thanks for stopping by and I hope you make The Epic a regular read!

Your Viet Nam information is so interesting! I have heard that the food there is very good. If I run across a good Vietnamese restaurant I'll look for the dish [with or without the well].

ML

Ben said...

I am blessed to live in a city with outstanding asian cuisine. I am equally blessed that my office is above one of the best Thai restaurants in the city.

Go figure.

Great write-up.