This go-to Asian dish is all the rave
Since it seems to be the benchmark dish for New Orleans’ Thai restaurants, let’s talk pad Thai, a simple preparation of stir-fried noodles, with eggs, the bite of fish sauce, bright tamarind and chile peppers tumbled with a combination of mung bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, beef or tofu and a garnish of crushed peanuts and cilantro leaves. Usually a wedge of lime is also on the plate to squeeze (or not) generously, over the works for a delicious splash of citrusy brightness. Pad Thai is one of those soul-satisfying, comfort dishes we retreat to time and time again.
Pad Thai is considered to be an ancient dish, brought to Thailand by Vietnamese traders. Popularized during the 1930s and ’40s by Thailand’s prime minister as an effort to reduce rice consumption (rice was a big export item), noodle making and noodle shops became a staple for the local economy and noodle dishes became a staple food.
Pad Thai soared in popularity stateside during the 1980s, when Thai cooks modified the original recipe for Western palates that preferred a heartier preparation and more sauce. Like gumbo, pad Thai is unique chef to chef, restaurant to restaurant. And of course the dish’s heat can be mild or ramped up for serious heat-seekers. In present iterations, local Thai cooks have become aware of the contemporary adoration for Thai (and all Asian cuisines) and have once again shifted their riffs on the dish, making it to taste, “Asian style” (less sauce, more fiery) on request.
Below are top spots for noodle slurping:
- Cafe Equator, 2920 Severn Ave., Metairie; 888-4772; www.cafeequator.com
- La Thai, 4938 Prytania St., New Orleans; 899-8866; www.lathaiuptown.com;
- Banana Blossom Thai Café, 2112 Belle Chasse Hwy., Gretna; 392-7530; www.eatbananablossom.com
- Chill Out Café, 729 Burdette St., New Orleans; 872-9628
- Bangkok Thai, 513 Carrollton Ave., New Orleans; 861-3932
- Sukho Thai, 1913 Royal St., New Orleans; 948-9309; www.sukhothai-nola.com
- Singha Thai Café, 413 Carondelet St., New Orleans; 581-2205
- Basil Leaf, 1438 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans; 862-9001
- Siamese, 6601 Veterans Blvd., Metairie; 454-8572; www.siamesecuisine.com