A classic Thai dish gets an upgrade
Whether you spell it phadthai, pad thai, or phat thai (the official RTGS transcription, which is also my personal preference), Thailand’s ubiquitous fried rice-noodle dish is the stuff of legend. Once ranked number 5 on CNN Go’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods readers’ poll, this sweet-and-savoury noodle pile can be traced back to the Ayutthaya era.
Although rice noodle dishes of all kinds made their way from southern China to early Siam, particularly from the Chaozhou (Teochew) region of eastern Guangdong, the addition of dried prawns, tamarind, and ground peanuts lend it a certain Thai-ness. But it has also been suggested these attributes came via the Vietnamese presence in Ayutthaya. Whatever its true origins, Thai military dictator Plaek Pibulsonggram aggressively promoted the dish during his mid-20th-century rule as a way to counter the growing popularity of Chinese noodle dishes.
The fact that it’s so common in Thailand, yet so badly done in many local eateries, means it’s often dissed among ‘serious’ Thai foodies. That’s a shame, because a well-fashioned phat thai is about as serious as you can get. The challenge is finding one worth writing home about, or writing about in a magazine.
Founded by French restaurateur Fred Meyer (Kombawa, Pizza Massilia, Namsaah Bottling Trust, Issaya Siamese Club), Baan Phadthai gives the namesake dish an admirable reboot at a lovingly renovated, and rustically decorated, bright blue shophouse on Charoen Krung road (walking distance from BTS Saphan Taksin). The open-air dining room—air-con dining will soon be available upstairs—with its ceiling fans and wooden tables topped with metal boxes holding the silverware, successfully evokes an old-school noodle-house vibe.
Chef Sujira Pongmorn’s secret 18-ingredient phat thai base, combined with Chanthaburi rice noodles, homemade dried shrimp, duck egg, and crab fat, takes the dish’s traditional flavour profile to a whole new level. Prices, fortunately, are very reasonable considering the quality of ingredients. We enjoyed the Phad Thai Poo (B280), a magnificent crabmeat version, large enough for two to easily share. Pork, chicken, and vegetarian renditions are also available.
Very tasty as well were all our starters, including Gai Tod (spicy chicken wings, B150), Laab Moo Tod (fried minced pork-and-herb balls, B190), and Mieng Khana (B150), an amped-up version of miang kham in which kale replaces wild tea leaves. We washed it all down with repeated glasses of Thai Mojito (B150), made with Sangsom whiskey. Among other beverages available are homemade Oliang (B100-120), a black, sweet Thai coffee, and Thai tea (B90-100).
It’s also worth stopping by just for the traditional Thai desserts, designed by Chef Arisara Chongphanitkul of Issaya La Patisserie fame. Choices include Itim Ka Thi (B120), the richest, most delicious coconut ice cream we’ve tasted anywhere in the city, and the unique Xa La Bao Durian (B140), pandan-infused Chinese steamed buns filled with durian cream.
21-23, Charoenkrung Soi 44
Tel: 02 060 5553
Open daily: 11am-10pm