When a self-proclaimed pastaholic and a world-renowned cuisine collide chances are they fall in love. That happened to me upon my first Thailand visit and many return trips since have shown this love is meant to stay.
When people ask what to eat in Bangkok the question should better be phrased: what not to eat in Bangkok? Bangkok food is famous and not only amongst the Bourdains and Ramseys but also amongst the mere backpack wearing mortals, if only for its cheap prices for the latter.
During my first trip to Thailand, I made it my mission to find the best Pad Thai in Bangkok. While I am aware that there is a difference between noodles and pasta I am not quite sure what it is and so this it seemed like a fitting challenge for a pastaholic. Even if failed I would have fun trying (spoiler alert: I did find the best Pad Thai in Bangkok – if you are too eager just check the Google maps here!).
During that first visit, readers started to get annoyed with me because I didn’t post anything else but pictures of cats and Pad Thai in Bangkok. Once I got asked if there was actually nothing else to in eat in Thailand and if this was all there was the presumed Bangkok famous food.
That thought made me sad for the other awesome Thai food, though honestly, think I could only eat Pad Thai for the rest of my life and die happy. Proper Thailand Pad Thai that is. Whenever I tried eating Pad Thai outside of Thailand I was thoroughly disappointed.
What is Pad Thai you ask and why do I love it so much?
Pad Thai is a stirfried rice noodle dish that is usually made with a scrambled egg, some tofu cubes, tamarind, fish sauce, and dried shrimp. They also add palm sugar and usually, you can help yourself to add ground peanuts, lime, fresh mungbeans, and some other greenery. Sometimes it is served with chicken or fresh prawns other times instead of an egg scramble it is placed in a little egg-omlete- nest-package – for lack of a better word. On the grand scheme of Thai cuisine and flavors, it is probably not the most exciting dish in the world but there is something utterly comforting about it that I love. So when I look for comfort Thai food in Bangkok, Pad Thai is my go-to staple.
In addition, it is a dish that is easy to find as it is part of most Thai restaurant menus. While this could be considered an advantage I have come to realize that after a while my taste buds finetuned and I got picky when it came to Pad Thai. Upon a return trip to Bangkok, I was in desperate need to get a massage, a cold Singha and a Pad Thai within my first hour and so I headed to Khao San Road. In hindsight, I realize this was a rookie mistake. Khao San Road is alright for a cold beer and even a cheap massage but this is not the place to eat. The Pad Thai I had was not only overpriced but also incredibly disappointing. I didn’t finish my plate and vowed to never repeat this mistake, and instead find the most delicious Bangkok Pad Thai and to never cheat again.
The best Pad Thai in Bangkok – According to me…
But where to truly find the best Pad Thai in Bangkok you may ask now. When I recently asked this question on my Instagram account someone commented ‘one a street food cart’. They didn’t specify which one and to be honest if a Pad Thai is not freshly prepared it is no good. Especially the area around Khao San Road is full of vendors that push around their carts with mountains of pre-cooked noodles, prawns and chickens which they assemble upon ordering. To me, this looks like a recipe for desaster. In a best-case scenario, the Pad Thai will be horrible, in the worst-case scenario you will get a stomach bug. I only eat street food when it is freshly prepared and have fared well with that rule during most of my travels.
The internet and TripAdvisor will have you believe that Thip Samai Bangkok has the best Pad Thai in town. And honestly, it is not bad at all. They offer a few variations, even a fancy one with crab meat, and have gotten quite famous with their little restaurant in the old part of town. However, just like Hawker Chen in Singapore, they are a bit too famous for my liking now. As they are only open for dinner the lines are usually long, prices are more expensive, and the staff is even wearing branded caps and t-shirts now. I expect them to open franchises all over town any minute now.
Lucky for me (and you!), I discoverd the actual place with the best Pad Thai in Bangkok. After realizing that Thip Samai is only open in the evenings I did some extensive online research and struck gold: Pad Thai Lueng Pha.
The irony is that it is located right next to Thip Samai on Mahachai Road (follow this Google link to the exact location). So close in fact that I almost missed it and couldn’t believe my luck when I recognized the sign on the awning.
In general, I do like an underdog and while Thip Samai and Starbucks and all those places have their merit, I like a place where the people don’t wear branded t-shirts or the queue goes around the block just because it is the place to go.
Lueng Pha has none of that plus it is open for lunch. Also, they make their Pad thai Sauce out of shrimp heads. That may sound weird but does a lot for its flavor and gives the noodles a deep orange color.
Order a plate and watch the magic unfold: soft noodles, some tofu, a couple of big succulent prawns all fried and stirred and eventually placed into a thin egg nest contraption that looks too pretty to break open.
It is served with mungbeans, spring onion, and other greens and you can add peanuts, sugar, and chili to your heart’s desire. Moist, crunchy, prawn-y – everything that a Pad Thai is meant to be and more!
They also offer a few variations mainly one without the small dried shrimp which I prefer and you can add pay extra for more prawns. While signs still tell you that a plate of Pad Thai was only THB 8 when it first opened in 1975, there is nothing to complain about the THB 70 – 90 that it costs today. Pad Thai Lueng Pha’s age speaks for itself as does the Thai crowd that usually eats here. For foreigners, it is a great way to make friends because if you happen to meet another tourist chances are you will quickly bond over your lucky fate of having discovered the actual best Pad Thai in Bangkok.
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