Shrimp Pad Thai Wrapped in an Omelet Crepe
For a lot of people I know, pad thai isn't just a Thai noodle dish - it is Thai cuisine. To the exclusion of all else, pad thai is probably the most popular, most widely-recognized of Thai dishes in the U.S. today. When my family owned a restaurant, we even used to joke we could survive selling pad thai alone.
Although noodle dishes have existed in Thailand since the Chinese brought the art of making noodles out of water and rice flour centuries ago, the dish we know today as "pad thai" is generally believed to a relatively new creation.
During the Great Depression and Second World War, the price of rice skyrocketed. People turned to eating rice noodles instead, which were cheaper and required less rice to prepare. It was around this time that the "pad thai" became widely known.
Although pad thai shows a clear Chinese culinary influence (it emerged in the Central plains region of Thailand, where much of the population is of Chinese descent), the appellation "Thai" is entirely appropriate because its flavors and ingredients - fish sauce, lime, and tamarind - are far more representative of Thai kitchens than of what we might call "Han Chinese" fare.
There are two typical ways of presenting and serving pad thai. The first involves using the petal of the banana flower as a cup to serve the noodles in. The tangy flower is then eaten with the pad thai.
Not having a banana tree in my backyard, I've opted for the second option: serving my pad thai wrapped in an omelet crepe.
Sweet, tangy, spicy; crunching peanuts and bean sprouts; no wonder pad thai is so popular!