Monday, March 17, 2014

Bangkok's "Best" Pad Thai

It's on the street, of course, but I put "best" in quotes because I'm really just trusting that superlative from other sources.  When I was in Bangkok for the first time three years ago I was a little hesitant to dig in to street food, and this time I've only been here for one day so far (don't worry – I'm hitting the streets hard). But word on the street is that Lueng Pha Phad Thai dishes up the real thing. I took a 20 minute tuk-tuk ride past smashed, overturned mini-busses to find out.

There's always a pretty real risk in Asia that you'll get to the "best" restaurant for something and there won't be an English menu. This place has red posters on the wall with a few different types of pad Thai listed, in Thai, but if you're undeniably farang (equiv. of a gringo) Luang Pha has just the English menu for you. Go for the works – here, that means pad Thai with fresh shrimp, shrimp fat and an omelet wrapper. 
Like I always say – the best way to be successful in a foreign language street food situation is to be confident. There's a girl outside Luang Pha cooking up noodles, but just walk right in and take a seat. Use the point-to-order method on your English menu, and wait patiently in the glory of the step-back-in-time ambiance of this place. I mean, look at the walls. There are chopsticks in a tin on your table, and a plate of bean sprouts and green garnishes will precede your noodles. This isn't fast street food, guys. Pad Thai here can take, like, 15 minutes to materialize. It's Thailand. 
If you go all the way, as I suggest, your pad Thai will be all wrapped up in a paper thin omelet. Charlie pointed out that this wrapper lets the noodles stew and steam a little bit before you break into it, and he's right. There's a gooey goodness here that's definitely worth the 80 baht splurge (that's just under $3 USD). You'll also notice two plump shrimp, bean sprouts, tofu, green onions, wilted shallots and if you're lucky, a ruby lump of shrimp fat – that's what gives these noodle their red tint. Bust into that baby and shower your noodles with lime. There's a strong hint of tamarind and the shrimp fat lends a pungent twist (that's a good thing). 

Lueng Pha Phad Thai: 315/1 Maha Chai Road, near the corner of Soi Samran Rat

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