Pad Thai has become one of the things that comes to mind when you think of Thailand. Aside from temples, hot and humid weather, and spicy food. This stir-fried rice noodle dish is one of the country’s national dishes, making it ubiquitous. Different variations are available not just in Thailand but in Thai restaurants around the world. It was popularized by a Prime Minister in the late 1930s to promote nationalism and nutrition. Yet, its origins are said to be Chinese, who invented noodles and stir-fry.
Said to be Thailand’s first fast food, this dish aims to represent the flavors and essence of Thai cuisine: sweet, salty and sour. There have been lots of variations of the recipe but its main ingredients are rice noodles, eggs, tofu slices, tamarind, fish sauce, dried shrimp, shallots, red chili pepper, and palm sugar. It is also often served with chopped peanuts, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and coriander leaves.
The search for Thip Samai
Unfortunately, during the first time I set foot in Bangkok, our jam-packed schedule did not allow me to go search for it. So the second time I visited Bangkok while I was backpacking alone, I took my time to hunt it down.
After finally getting an address online, I tried going on a Monday, which turned out to be a mistake. I got there before 5 PM so I waited by the 7/11 across the street. 5 PM rolled around and still there’s no sign of activity at the restaurant. So I asked a local to confirm what I was thinking all along. Turns out, it was closed that day and I didn’t know why.
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So I came back the next day, after spending the whole afternoon at the Golden Mount which is just a few blocks away from the location of Thip Samai. I got there around 4:30 PM and already the restaurant was bustling, with the staff clad in gray and orange uniforms getting ready for the operating hours. A few foreigners waiting nearby decided to make a queue so I crossed the street and lined up. The sound of metal spatulas hitting the woks is like a music to the ears, with the delicious smell of Pad Thai wafting up our nose and enticing us with the dish that we will soon be able to finally taste. By opening, there was already quite a line which filled up the whole dining area immediately when the staff finally let people in.
I took a table for myself and observed. It seems I was the only solo diner this time. The walls are decorated with the accolades the restaurant received in its nearly 50 years. The takeaway station was already busy, with the cooks getting ready for the barrage of orders. The restaurant has definitely improved since they filmed that NatGeo episode. But the sequence remains to be like that of an efficient manufacturing assembly. Whipped from one station to the next until the finished product gets picked up by the waiting servers.
The waitresses finally distributed the menu and took orders. Of course, I would be getting their famed Pad Thai cooked over charcoal. This lends a scorched and smoky flavor to the dish. I just didn’t expect that there would be quite a few choices. So I ordered the one I remembered that Ishai Golan ate on the show – their Pad Thai delicately wrapped in egg with prawns. Also known as Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot or Superb Pad Thai. I also ordered their orange juice which seems to be a hit for both foreigners and locals. It is sweet and pulpy, exactly how I like my OJ. Best thing is there are no preservatives. Although, it’s definitely quite steep for 70 baht for a small bottle.
After my order was passed on to the cooks, I passed the time just taking a look around inside the dining area. The diners were composed of 90% foreigners, with the locals dominating the takeaway. After 25 minutes, and a lot of stomach growls, my order finally came! Oh, happy happy joy joy!
Admittedly, I have eaten a lot of Pad Thai in Bangkok before this. From food courts to street food and floating markets. They taste the same but still somehow different. I didn’t expect anything because usually famous restaurants are almost always just hyped. But Thip Samai proved me wrong.
It was everything I wanted and more. I definitely loved their version of Pad Thai wrapped in egg, instead of the usual. Opening the egg wrapper to get to the noodles was akin to opening a gift you have been waiting for. I also liked that their version is not as dry as the ones found on the streets, and their noodles are not as chewy compared to the previous ones I tried. Their rice noodles are said to be sun-dried and came all the way from the province of Chanthaburi. I was also thankful that there’s a bottle of chopped peanuts right there on the table. I got to put as many peanuts I wanted!
Just writing this and looking at the picture makes my mouth water and reminisce the burst of flavors from that first bite. Served with lime and extra vegetables, the egg covered concoction is just enough for one person. Priced at 80 baht, it is definitely pricier but you’ll definitely get the bang for your buck. Unfortunately, this is not the restaurant you can linger after eating. Because if looks could kill, you’ll be dead from the stares of the people in the queue.
The restaurant also offers food products for cooking like Shrimp Fat in Oil, Rice Noodles, and Pad Thai Sauce.
Cravings satisfied! The wait was worth it. And I have a good feeling that I will be coming back the next time I’m in Bangkok.
313-315 Mahachai Road Road Samranrat
Phranakorn, Bangkok 10200Open daily from 17.00 am. – 2:00 pm.
Tel. 02-2216280, 02-6211288Coordinates 13.752795, 100.504708
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Have you tried Thip Samai? How was your experience?