Thailand's Incredible Noodle Contribution
Famed for its beautiful beaches, golden temples, glittering smiles, and incredible street food, it’s no wonder that the world has fallen head over heels with Thai cuisine and especially its noodle dishes. Pucker up for Pad Thai, drift downstream with Pad See Ew, go crazy for coconut noodles, and find your slice of slurp-worthy heaven in a fragrant bowl of lemongrass and basil noodle soup. There is so much to love when it comes to Thailand’s foodie flavors.
Noodles have a long and life-saving history in Thailand. First believed to be introduced by Chinese traders in the 1700s, noodles shot to success during the second world war when rice was found to be in short supply. With war and flooding reaping havoc on the rice fields, the government made a push for noodles to become a new popular staple food among the people as it used half the amount of grain. The government were inspired to curate a plate called Pad Thai and it quickly became the national dish. There was such a push behind it that it was handed out for free on street corners to make sure everyone had a taste of this savory sweet and moreish noodle delight.
Of course, Thai noodle culture doesn’t quit with Pad Thai, there’s a ton of awesome noodle recipes that will have your senses swimming. Today we take a look at Thailand’s national dish and its second in command – Pad See Ew. For all those wondering if they should stick to their favorite or go a little further with their noodle choices, here’s all you need to know about two of Thailand’s best-dressed noodle specials…
What is The Difference Between Pad See Ew & Pad Thai?
Noodles – Pad Thai is often made with thin rice noodles whereas Pad See Ew will have a wider, flatter rice noodle.
Sauce – Pad Thai is all about the tamarind whereas Pad See Ew takes its primary sauce flavor from soy sauce.
Toppings – Pad Thai can have a variety of vegetables and proteins and is usually topped with crushed peanuts for an added crunch and a squeeze of zesty lime. Pad See Ew often boasts broccoli and greens and even a scrambled egg.
Taste – Pad Thai is all about contrasting texture and a taste that straddles the line between sweet and savory. Pad See Ew is deeper and darker in taste and has a chewier texture thanks to the wider style of noodles. Thanks to the slightly charred process of flash-frying the vegetables, Pad See Ew can have more depth in flavor.
Pad See Ew
Pad See Ew is beautifully complex in flavor and truly brings home the depth of what you can expect from Thai cuisine. While this stir fry supper also takes its roots from Chinese cooking, its local execution lifts it up into authentic Thai food lore. Malaysia and Singapore have a similar seafood styled dish that goes by the name of Chaw Kway Teow.
Truly indulgent, the soy sauce usually has a touch of molasses to bring in that sweet and savory balance. The flat wide noodles are slightly thicker in texture which gives them a chewy taste. The Chinese broccoli brings the splash of fresh color and a satisfying crunch whereas the mushrooms lend earthier notes. The final finish of the slightly scrambled egg brings a gloss and golden yolk joy. While both these recipes are carb happy, Pad See Ew has fewer calories than Pad Thai. As it’s also the less sweet of the two, Pad See Ew is considered slightly healthier.
The dish that needs little introduction, Pad Thai plays a huge role in our global cuisine. As mentioned, this recipe actually takes its roots from elsewhere. The name of the dish is a slight hint, the original title is said to be Kway Teo Pad which translates to Thai style fried noodles, meaning it’s a localized take on a different dish. The dish is believed to have Chinese influence which makes sense if this style of noodles arrived with traders centuries ago. But Pad Thai is definitely a name that seems to be most synonymous with Thailand’s restaurant scene.
This stir-fried noodle delight pulls together thin rice noodles, your fave protein (chicken, shrimp, or tofu), veggies, garlic, a tangy tamarind sauce, fish sauce, a hint of brown sugar, umami soy, and chopped peanuts, lashings of lime, and crushed red pepper flakes for a hint of heat.
Other Noteworthy Noodle Dishes
Beyond the fame of these two Thai dishes, there are tons of incredible ways to fall in love with Thailand’s noodle scene. From late-night street food snacks to flu busting soups and chilled noodle salads - here’s a sampling of tantalizing Thai dishes to funk up our Thai food obsession.
Pad kee mao/drunken noodle
With a name like drunken noodles, who can resist stumbling home to a stomach-soothing bowl of delicious Pad Kee Mao after a tipsy night on the town. This is literally how these noodles get their name, as street hawkers would sell a ton to late-night party revelers. Just the right amount of spicy meets sweet, Pad Kee Mao is a sticky garlicky sauce made from fish, oyster, and soy splashed over wide chewy noodles and piled high with protein, chile, onions, tender charred Chinese broccoli, and eggs.
A savvy street good dish with a difference, Laad Naa is fried wide rice noodles that come slightly crispy served with a thick and tasty gravy and Thai stir-fried vegetables like Chinese broccoli. And that’s just the beginning. The heart of this dish is really in its condiments that help you tailor Laad Naa to suit your palate. From crushed chilli to fresh lime, salty fish sauce to sweet oyster sauce, this dish can be a simple fix or decadent delight.
Thai Lemongrass Noodle Soup
A fragrant simmering bowl of pure Asian inspired comfort, this light as spring soup brings together creamy coconut milk, broccoli and cabbage, crispy tofu, freshly cut chillies, soul-warming flat rice noodles, and gentle zesty lemongrass stalks along with citrus fresh and slightly sour lime leaves. Top with fragrant Thai basil for an extra pop of mouthwatering magic.
Yom Wun Sen
Chilled Thai glass noodles are served up as a salad staple alongside shrimp, fish sauce, Chinese celery, roast peanuts, fried garlic, and lots of zesty lime juice, coriander, and chili peppers. It’s exactly the lunch you are dreaming of when imagining summers on white sand beaches with a cold beer in hand.
For those who are craving an easy-breezy Thai style takeout cooked at home, you don’t get better and cleaner than these dream dishes. The crux is always getting the noodles right as these are the basis of true Thai delight. Noodles should have that balance between bite and texture. To simplify, take a look at Nona’s noodle page for authentic Thai noodles to whip up at home.
Easy Pad Thai
- A packet of Nona Thai rice noodles
- Choice of veggies/protein
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 4 cloves garlic chopped finely
- 3 eggs
- Chopped green onions and other toppings (crushed peanuts, lime, chilli flakes)
- 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup of fish sauce
- 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
Whisk all the sauce ingredients into a bowl together
Cook the noodles according to package instructions
Heat oil in a pan and stir fry up whatever meat and vegetables you are using before setting aside
Heat a little more oil and cook the carrots, bean sprouts, and garlic.
Towards the end, in the same pan, whisk in the three eggs until they have a scrambled like consistency
Throw everything back in the same pan (meat, veggies, noodles, sauce) and give it all a good mix
Serve topped with crushed peanuts, chilli flakes, and a generous squeeze of lime.
Easy Pad See Ew
1 pack Nona Pad See Ew noodles
Choice of veggies and protein
Cup of Chinese broccoli
2 cups baby spinach
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon of sweet dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
½ tablespoon of light sugar
Whisk together the sauce ingredients
Cook noodles according to package directions
Heat the wok under a high heat and cook whatever protein and vegetables you are using
Add two tablespoons of the sauce and cook the broccoli until tender
Add the spinach, the noodles, and the remaining sauce
Cook everything together, tossing frequently to get a good even coating
Serve sizzling hot.
So which dish gets your vote? Are you a Pad Thai perfectionist or do you adore the depth of flavor that can be found in the bottom of a Pad See Ew bowl? Share all your fave Thai recipes with us in the comments.