By Tana Kosiyabong
I meant to write about Pad Thai for a while now, but I couldn’t find a truly authentic one here in Vancouver. Last month, I have accidently found one that came pretty close. It is Thai Basil’s Pad Thai. Wait! This is NOT the Pad Thai on the restaurant menu. Chef Goh of Thai Basil normally makes this mean Pad Thai just for his Thai acquaintances. But, thanks to me, you can now order this dish at Thai Basil under the name of Pad Thai Krung Thep.
I’m a regular at Thai Basil and I know Chef Goh quite well since I interviewed him for his authentic Pad Krapow and Pad KeeMao dishes last year. For several months after that post, I repeatedly ordered one of these two dishes whenever I visited Thai Basil (except for a couple of times when I tried their weekly specials). Last month I went there again for lunch. Attempting to save some money, I ordered Pad Thai from their lunch special menu ($6.95) for the first time. Judging from the look of this dish on the table next to me, I wasn’t expected it to be authentic.
Once Chef Goh realized what I ordered, he asked if I wanted to try Thai-style Pad Thai instead? “Hell Yeah,” I replied. That’s how I found out about this hard-to-find noodle dish at Thai Basil. It was about as good as it gets with the limited ingredients. But since I wasn’t expected to write about the same restaurant twice, I didn’t bring the camera with me.
A few weeks later, equipped with my clunky point-and-shoot digital camera, I went back to Thai Basil again for the review of the Thai-style Pad Thai. This time I asked Natee, a Thai friend of mine, to meet me there for his opinion on the dish. On the way there, I came up with an ingenious idea that I should write a face off between the Pad Thai on Thai Basil menu (or what I called Pad Canadian) and the Thai-style Pad Thai (or what Chef Goh called Pad Thai Krung Thep). However, my budget only allowed for one Pad Thai. So when reached the restaurant, I pulled Chef Goh aside to discuss my plan with him. “No Problem,” he said with a big smile.
First comes the Pad Thai on the menu (Pad Canadian–$7.95 on regular menu). The reddish color of the noodles gave away the inauthenticity of the dish. Surprisingly, it tasted way better than I expected. No wonders it is a hit among Canadian customers. The noodles were cooked perfectly, and so do the shrimp and deep-fried tofu. Although the ketchup somewhat simulated the tamarind flavor, it is not the same. The smell of ketchup doesn’t belong in the Pad Thai. As a Thai-born Canadian, I’m very picky about this dish. After the tasting session, I talked to Chef Goh. He told me that his Pad Thai dish was made with both ketchup and tamarind sauce. Ah-ha, that’s why it was surprisingly tasty, I thought to myself.
The second dish is, of course, the Thai-style Pad Thai (Pad Thai Krung Thep–$8.95, not on menu). Natee, who was twenty minutes late, showed up just in time this dish came out. (You lucky bastard!) Chef Goh tried his best to make it look distinguishable from the Pad Canadian. As a result, Pad Thai Krung Thep is served in a bowl. I don’t particular like this idea because the bowl makes it hard to throughly mix the noodles with other condiments like lime juice, ground dried chili and crushed peanuts.
Pad Thai Krung Thep at Thai Basil is about 85 to 90 percent authentic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Chinese chives, one of the key ingredients in Pad Thai. Dried shrimps and preserved turnips, though added to the dish according to Chef Goh, were unidentifiable during the taste test. But other than that it was spotted on. The first bite brought back all the good memories while I was still living in Thailand. Noodles were cooked just right. They were light and dry. The chef used Thai palm sugar to add sweetness. It was mellower and more aromatic than granulated sugar. Perhaps as his signature, he also added pork in addition to fresh shrimps. Since I like my Pad Thai sour and spicy with some crunchy peanuts, I added lime juice from a few lime wedges, ground chili and peanuts. Natee also confirmed the authenticity of this Pad Thai. In Thailand, the dish is served with side veggies such as fresh bean sprouts, Chinese chives and Banana flowers.
I personally think Pad Thai Krung Thep won hands down. It was true to the original. And that’s what Pad Thai should be. Although the Canadian-style Pad Thai on Thai Basil menu is delicious in its own right, it should be named Pad Canadian instead. As for my beloved readers who were born and raised here, you may even find that you prefer the Pad Canadian more than the original. It all comes down to the taste you grew up with. However, I’d urge you to try Thai Basil’s Pad Thai Krung Thep at least once to get a rough idea on how the authentic dish should taste like.
Thai Basil’s Pad Thai on the menu (Pad Canadian): ©©©1/2
Thai Basil’s Pad Thai Krung Thep (not on the menu): ©©©©
Thai Basil Restaurant is located at 1215 Thurlow St., Vancouver, BC. 604.685.6754
Remaining Budget: $252.39
Budget Spent: -$8.95
Budget Available: $243.44
©2010 Tana Kosiyabong and CheapAppetite.com™. All rights reserved.