Thai Basil Vancouver—The battle between Pad Thai and Pad Canadian

By Tana Kosiyabong

Thai Basil Pad Thai on the menu (left) vs Thai Basil Pad Thai Krung Thep (right)

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.

Thai Basil's Canadian-style Pad Thai

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.

Thai Basil's Thai-Style Pad Thai

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™. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “Thai Basil Vancouver—The battle between Pad Thai and Pad Canadian

  1. honestly, tana, despise i’m a big fan of pad thai, i can never tell the detailed and distinguished difference between these two! i simply can never beat a true thai!

    1. lululu… it’s quite easy. We use Tamarind sauce for Pad Thai in Thailand. So, the noodle will be brownish. If you see red noodles, you can pretty much tell that it was made with ketchup. Not authentic. But it’s up to you which one you like more 🙂 I grew up with the authentic one. That’s the one I like:)

  2. I want to try the Thai-style pad thai; I hope Chef Goh keeps it on his menu. I haven’t had a pad thai in this city that I liked (too sweet, no balance of flavours, noodles wrong, etc): I’ve been searching for a good one for so long.

    1. I don’t think Chef Goh will put it on menu, but you can always order it. Just let them know you want the Thai-style Pad Thai with tamarind sauce not ketchup.:) You may want to ask for a couple more lime wedges than what came with the dish. I think I use 3 wedges:) hmm maybe 4? Mix it throughly first.

  3. Funny it seems Thai Basil has sort of an “undocumented” menu. Mijune (Follow Me Foodie) mentioned their Pad Gra Pao and, regardless how authentic it was, I quite enjoyed it.

    1. KimHo, like I said, Chef Goh normally cooked this just for his Thai friends. He didn’t mean to sell them to the public. But I just couldn’t keep the secret. lol. I’ve quite a few readers asking for an authentic Pad Thai, so I have to share them. As for the Pad Krapow, it supposed to be just a weekly special. But I indirectly force him to sell all year round by writing a post about the dish. It’s sooooo yummy!

  4. OMG! Tana, I am so there tomorrow and I will say you sent me to check out their Pad Thai Krung Thep :), I cannot wait, am salivating while typing this. I hope they will make it for me even though its not on the menu. I can live on Pad Thai diet and that alone!

    1. I hope you enjoy Pad Thai Krung Thep Imkoonta. I’m sure he’ll make it for you. Let me know what you think about it. It’s not an exact replica, but it is close enough. I love mine with a few wedges of lime juices and some ground chili:) yummy. Tell Chef Goh “Tana sends you.” lol. 🙂

  5. just got back from Thai Basil, 3 words Tana, Arroy Mak Mak! It’s really good and yes I agree almost Thai style but lacked a few ingredients I thought but still pretty awesome! I did squeeze in a wedge of lime, chili flakes and also kicked it up a notch by throwing in lots of of sliced thai chili in fish sauce as I wanted my mouth to burn I love that feeling! Sadist i know haha. I did say Tana sent me and they were happy to hear that. I love the pork and prawns combination for my pad thai. I love that it had that dry consistency. I’m glad Chef Goh has introduced this dish. Now, since you have that ‘influence’ on him, perhaps you can ask him to make Khai Mun Gai Tod as a weekly special which you know is that flavoured rice but with thai fried chicken I guarantee Canadians will LOVE IT 🙂 come on Tana, work your magic!! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. Hey imkoonta,
      I’m really glad you like it. That makes me feel like I have accomplished a useful Cheap Appetite mission:) Yeah, I agree that the dry pad thai is better than the wet syrupy ones normally seen in the westernized versions. Gosh you make me hungry again. I don’t really have any influence on Chef Goh. Luckily, he’s nice enough to play along with my requests. lol. I can ask him if he can make Khao Mun Gai todd, but it’s up to him. If he has a good recipe, he’ll probably try it.

    1. Hey Kristy,
      Thanks so much. Very kind of you:) You choose the right one girl. Good Pad Thai should be cooked with Tamarind sauce:) not ketchup! I’ll pick up my award soon:)

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