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Entry from December 10, 2008
Pad Thai (Phad Thai)

Pad Thai (less frequently spelled “phad Thai") is a noodle dish that has been cited in print in the United States since at least 1960, and that appeared in New York City’s Thai restaurants by at least 1974. The dish usually includes stir-fried rice noodles, eggs, fish sauce, scallions, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, red chili pepper, lime, and other ingredients, to which can be added shrimp, chicken or tofu.

The dish was popularized by Thai Prime Minister Luang Pibulsonggram (also spelled Phibunsongkhram) during World War II.

Wikipedia: Pad Thai
Pad Thai (or Phad Thai, “Thai style frying") is a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts and coriander. It is normally served with a piece of lime, the juice of which can be added along with Thai condiments. In Thailand, it is also served with a piece of banana flower.

Two different styles of Pad Thai have evolved: the version most often found in the streets of Thailand, which is relatively dry and light, and the version that seems dominant in many restaurants in the West, which is heavier and may be covered in red oil.

Though the dish had been known in various forms for centuries – it is thought to have been brought to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya by Vietnamese traders – it was first made popular as a national dish by Luang Phibunsongkhram when he was prime minister during the 1930s and 1940s, partly as an element of his campaign for Thai nationalism and centralization, and partly for a campaign to reduce rice consumption in Thailand. The Thai economy at this time was heavily dependent on rice exports; Phibunsongkhram hoped to increase the amount of it available for export by launching a campaign to educate the poor in the production of rice noodles, as well as in the preparation of these noodles with other ingredients to sell in small cafes and from street carts.

The dish’s name means “Thai-style stir-fried noodles”, and for a dish to be so named in its own country suggests an origin that isn’t Thai. Indeed, noodle cookery in most southeast Asian countries was introduced by the wave of immigrants from southern China that settled in the region in the 20th century. They brought with them rice noodles and their ways of cooking them. During the recession following World War II, the post-war government of Field Marshall Pibul, desperate in its efforts to revive the Thai economy, looked for ways to stem the massive tide of unemployment. Among the occupations the government aggressively promoted to give the populace a way to earn a living was the production of rice noodles and the operation of noodle shops. Detailed instructions on how to make the noodles and recipes were printed and distributed around the country. From these efforts, rice noodles became firmly rooted in the country, and have since become a widespread staple food.

Outside of Thailand, Pad Thai is one of the best-known Thai dishes, and is very popular in Thai restaurants in the United States and Australia.

The Royal Budha (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Pad Thai (ผัดไทย) Information
Do you know Kway teow pad Thai is the accurate and full name of this dish and it is not native to Thailand? Kway teow in Chinese language means rice noodles and it is said that Chinese settlers who came to the country from southern China brought a previous edition to Thailand. The dish, grabbed extreme limelight in the 1930s, when the prime minister of Thailand made a decision to promote this sumptuous dish on a national level.

Thai government also wanted to decrease domestic consumption of rice; having rice as their major exported product. In order to increase the popularity of this dish, the Thai government proffered different tasty recipes and motivated people to make use of wheeled carts to sell this cuisine in every nook and corner. Due to this, Pad Thai became an economical, convenient and healthy meal in the 1940s. During these years, the average cost to cook a Pad Thai for a small family was barely 0.18 cents, according to the Thai government. You can relish great Pad Thai at any good Thai restaurant and that too without shelling out a heavy amount. If you’re thinking to try this dish, order Pad Thai with a blend of several flavors like tangy and a tad sweet.

Madam Mam’s Thai Cuisine
Pad Thai
“Pad Thai” actually means padphad or phat ("stir-fried"), and Thai or tai ("freedom"). The word Thai means “freedom”, but when the name of this famous noodle dish is written in Thai script, the Thai in pad Thai is not the same spelling as the word for ‘freedom’, instead, it means ‘Thai-style’. So the term refers to Thai-style stir-fried noodles.

Pad Thai has been called ‘The National Dish of Thailand’, although that seems to be mostly because it is the Thai dish most known by Westerners and one that they know to not be spicy; and incidentally, one of the most-ordered dishes at Madam Mam’s. If you asked any Thai on the street in-country what their national dish was, I doubt “…pad thai…” would be the answer that you received. It is, after all, a Vietnamese dish which uses Chinese ingredients. It is rare that a Thai would ever cook this dish at home these days, choosing instead to purchase it from their favorite street vendors and restaurants that specialize in the dish. It is popular as lunch, dinner, or as a late night dining option after a night of partying.

Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish with a flavor combination of sweet (white sugar, palm sugar, or in the States as a cheap and easy shortcut, ketchup), sour (vinegar, lime, and/or tamarind), and salty (fish sauce or sea salt), and a textural contrast between soft noodles, pickled vegetable, crunchy bean sprouts, peanuts, fried tofu, dried shrimps, and any meat or seafood used by the cook, if any. It is cooked on a flat-surfaced pan, and not cooked in a wok. Popular choices for additional ingredients include chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu, but beef, squid, or cuttlefish can be used as well. Depending on the regional style, cooks might add chile powder (phrik pon) or mild paprika for color. If ordered from a street vendor, the customer will indicate which of the added ingredients they prefer. The customer will then use any of the noodle condiments to adjust the final taste to their individual preference: roasted ground chile, sliced chile in vinegar, fish sauce, fresh chile sauce, minced peanuts, or sugar.

Originally the dish was prepared for take-away dining by street vendors by placing a sheet of newspaper down, lining it with banana leaves, placing the order of noodles on top of the banana leaves, and then wrapping the package up securely before securing it with twine made from banana stalks; a method much more romantic than today’s styrofoam. However, this dish is best when eaten as soon as possible after it is removed from the stove.

History of Pad Thai:
Some culinary historians attribute pad Thai to Vietnamese origins, probably based on Banh Pho Xao Sate or a derivative, a dish of stir-fried rice stick noodles with sate (garlic, peanuts, and chiles), mung bean sprouts, meat of some sort, scallions, and fish sauce, often served with pickled vegetables. The dish was said to be imported to the ancient Thai capital city of Ayuthaya by Viet traders, and was then altered to reflect the Thai flavor profile and assigned a name reflecting its newly acquired Thainess.

Although variations of the dish existed hundreds of years before, pad Thai was formally promoted as a culinary entity and made popular by Prime Minister Luang Pibulsonggram (also spelled Phibunsongkhram) during WW II. He wanted to reduce rice consumption during the war (the Thai economy was based largely on rice exports), and there were serious budget constraints at the time. He launched a massive campaign to teach the poor how to manufacture rice noodles, and how to open noodle establishments (shophouse cafes and hawker carts), while using the dish as a tie-in to his campaign for quasi-fascist ultra-nationalism. Phibunsongkhram was the leader of the military revolt which toppled the absolute monarchy in 1932, launched a campaign to introduce western attire, and consolidated the language to promote the Central Thai style and exclude regional dialects. He danced a pragmatic line between appearing to aid the Japanese while maintaining some semblance of Thai independence. After watching Japan destructively blitzkrieg their way across Malaysia , he declared Thailand an ally of Japan . He was forced to resign by the nationalists after Japan ‘s defeat, but carried out a coup a few years later to regain control, this time under a façade of democracy. After a relatively lengthy and rocky reign, he was forced into exile in Japan after a coup in 1957. Pad Thai lived on.

Wikipedia: Plaek Pibulsonggram
Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram (July 14, 1897–June 11, 1964) (lastname sometimes spelled Phibunsongkhram, Phibul Songkhram or Pibul Songgram) was Prime Minister and military dictator of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.

Born Plaek Khittasangkha on July 14, 1897, he entered the Artillery Corps in 1914 upon graduation from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. Following advanced studies in France, the honourary title of Luang Pibulsonggram was bestowed upon him by King Prajadhipok in 1928. (He was later to take Pibulsonggram as his surname.)

Food Network
Pad Thai
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005
Show: Good Eats
Episode: Your Pad or Mine (Thai)
1-ounce tamarind paste
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
4 ounces rice stick noodles
6 ounces Marinated Tofu, recipe follows
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup chopped scallions, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salted cabbage
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
3 ounces bean sprouts, divided
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped, divided
Freshly ground dried red chile peppers, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges (...)

(Oxford English Dictionary)
phad thai, n.
Forms: 19- pad thai, 19- phad thai, 19- phat thai. Also with capital initial(s). [< Thai phàtthai < phàt stir-fried food + thai Thai.
The dish was originally devised to replace Chinese recipes for nationalistic reasons during the regime of Luang Phibunsonkhram (1938-44), but the name now has no political connotations.]

A Thai dish of stir-fried rice noodles mixed with shrimp, peanuts, and other ingredients.
1978 Washington Post 14 May (Mag. section) 38 To contrast with peppery dishes, be sure to include pad Thai, soft rice noodles tossed with bits of crisp pork and dried shrimp, slightly sweet and peanut flavored.
1989 Cook’s Mag. Nov. 64/2 Its menu goes beyond the usual pad Thai to include items like an appetizer of minced shrimp and pork mixed with onions, peanuts, and coconut milk.
2001 Vogue Apr. 383/2 The Chinese man who on most evenings for the past 44 years has cooked phad Thai, the national noodle of central Thailand.

24 April 1960, The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), “Treats from Thailand” by Violet Faulkner, Star Magazine, pg. 44, col. 1:
A typical Thai dinner, says Miss Perm Sukaprapha, who is the only Thai cook in a restaurant in this country, must always have a soup and a curry.
(Cols. 3-4—ed.)
Phad Thai
One pound medium fine rice vermicelli, 1/2 pound lard, 1/4 pound pork, 1/2 pound prawns, 1/2 pound bean sprouts, 6 eggs, 3 spring onions, 5 tablespoons roasted peanuts, 1/2 tablespoon chopped shallots, 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic, 3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 10 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons bean sauce, 1 tablespoon salt dissolved in 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves.

Soak rice vermicelli in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. Drain well. Chop shallots and garlic, then fry separately in part of the fat. Roast peanuts and crush coarsely. Cut pork and prawns into small pieces and fry with shallots and garlic until meats are well cooked. Add vermicelli and salt solution. Stir well and add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of lard. Break in eggs and nampla to taste. Finally, add bean sprouts, spring onions (cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces) and crushed peanuts. Sir well until bean sprouts are cooked. Serve on plates and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Makes about six servings.

Google Books
7 October 1974, New York magazine, “The Underground Gourmet” by Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder, “Family Thais,” pg. 106, col. 2:
The best values on the menu are in the noodle category. The House Special, Pad Thai Rice Stick Noodle, combines shrimp, bean cake, peanuts, bean sprouts, and chopped pork with soft noodles for an attractive and tasty dish, $1.95.
(Bangkok Cuisine, 885 Eighth Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets—ed.)

3 January 1975, New York (NY) Times, “Restaurant Guide” by John Canaday, pg. 20:
What Bangkok Cuisine can’t offer in style it makes up in authenticity of the Thai dishes, including noodle combinations as low as $1.95 that are a full meal. The one we tried, at the lowest price, is described on the menu as “pad Thai rice stick noodle” and included shrimp, bits of tender white fish, bean sprouts and assorted spices.

Google Books
March 1977, Cincinnati Magazine, pg. 58, col. 3:
Bangkok Thai Cuisine, 1055 Main St., Milford, 248-4853. Inexpensive Thai. Panang curry, pad Thai, chicken or pork satays, vegetarian entrees.

24 August 1979, New York (NY) Times, “Restaurants: Hot Thai spices and Italian appetizers” by Mimi Sheraton, pg. C18:
There are two quite wonderful noodle dishes to be had as main courses or side dishes. Pad Thai combine soft noodles with sauteed onions, egg, shrimp, bean curd and the ground peanut and chili oil sauce, while for Mee Krob, the thread-thin rice noodles are fried as crisp and golden as spun glass, and then tossed with shrimp, egg and bean sprouts all seasoned at once mildly sweet and pungent.
(Soomthai, 1490 Second Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets—ed.)

5 June 1981, New York (NY) Times, “Restaurants: Beguiling Thai food skillfully prepared” by Mimi Sheraton, pg. C16:
Creamy fried rice, almost like risotto, was good even with king crabmeat, and two noodle dishes were superb—the traditional mee krob of fine golden crisp-fried noodles tossed with shrimp, pork, tamarind sauce and bean sprouts, and the soft pad Thai, rice noodles with shrimps, egg and dried bean cake.
(Siam Inn, 916 Eighth Avenue, between 54th and 55th Streets—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, December 10, 2008 • Permalink