Padthai is one of Thailand’s signature cuisines. The main ingredients consist of stir-fried rice noodles and the condiments. Although this type of food is similar to other international cuisines, Padthai has its uniqueness and delicacy enabling the dish to turn into the not-to-miss food for visitors to Thailand.
The charm of Thai cuisine is well-known worldwide, and Padthai stands out as one of the marks of Thai culture. The author compares the perfection of the dish comprising its 5 essential nutrients to the perfect Thai woman who deserves to represent her country in the beauty pageant programe. The cooking methods are not complex. Most importantly, it contains the perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and charcoal roasted flavors which makes it unique.
The long-standing reputation of “Padthai” can be seen in the tourism publications. The images of long queues these past 4-5 years on Mahachai Road, Samranrat Sub-District or what people call “Pra-too-Pee” area are so familiar that those who have a chance to visit Thailand must try the original Padthai. The eatery received the awards from both national and international Food Institutes. These are the reasons why we see both Thai and foreigners standing in a long queue of 100 – 200 metres for 45 minutes just to eat the one and only Padthai, or what locals call “Thipsamai, Padthai Pra-too-Pee”.
The History of Padthai in Siam
Padthai is a traditional food. It was created during World War 2 in the period of General Por Pibulsongkram, the former prime minister of Thailand. Because of the economic crisis, the government tried to promote noodles as a meal because the cost was lower than jasmine rice and able to be made from damaged rice. Therefore, General Por Pibulsongkram had an idea to create Padthai, which was applied from Chinese noodle by using simple ingredients, which are egg, bean sprouts, tofu, shrimp, and garlic lead. Padthai is a main dish that is full of the 5 food groups and suitable for everyone .
Apart from this, there is also “Padthai wrapped in egg” or sometimes Padthai with fresh shrimps instead of dried shrimps, which is known as “Padthai with shrimp wrapped in egg”. However, different areas have different recipes for Padthai. For Thipsamai, the famous Padthai restaurant located in Samranrat Sub-District, Pranakorn, the recipe uses fresh sea prawns and rice noodles wrapped with egg. The restaurant has been well-recognized since General Por Pibulsongkram’s times, and its fame has spread by word of mouth. It is common to see long lines of customers waiting outside the restaurant as the smell of the full flavored stir fried noodled drift from the woks. Even distinguished and well-known personnels in the society visited the restaurant. It became so renowned that it was one of the first few restaurants in Thailand to receive attention from the foreign media.
The journey to becoming “Mouthwatering Padthai”
Padthai Thipsamai or Padthai Pra-too-Pee (Ghost Gate Padthai) is the legendary Padthai noodles. The restaurant has a long history of almost a century and it is the most recognized Thai dish among Thais due to its richness in flavor. Thipsamai was first started by the older generation who painstakingly and delicately put together the raw materials, something hard to find today. The business is now carried on by the new generation who is very enthusiastic and in love with the food service. The restaurant still delivers a variety of menus in accordance to its typical signature dishes to meet the needs of the customers today. Another worth mentioning product is its quality fruit juice under the idea of preserving the essence of Thainess. The taste of the food and drink is reminiscent of good old days.
The identity and distinction
- Thipsamai still cooks the authentic Thai food in meticulous details and is selective of raw materials.
- The restaurant adheres to the original tastes of Padthai since the first generation by paying attention to every step to preserve the Thai food with the Thai culture.
- The restaurant still cooks with charcoal as it lends a scorched and smoky flavor to the dish. It is also considered the high art of cooking as it needs techniques to increase and decrease the heat which is hard to find today.
- Thipsamai uses its own special rice noodles which is made specifically for the restaurant. This makes rice noodles at Thipsamai soft unlike anywhere else.
- Thipsamai also selects the shrimp oil from the shrimp’s head, then mixes it with the Thai spices, before stir frying the Padthai; hence, the taste is splendid and like none other.
The restaurant’s signature dish is stir-fried rice noodle, shrimp oil, fresh sea prawns wrapped in egg, all created by the restaurant. The speciality is the thin layer of egg which needs skill and experience in cooking. Another dish is ‘padthai song krueng’ Padthai with extra ingredients, consisting of fresh sea prawns, crab meat, cuttlefish and mango mixed together. This menu is also created by the Thipsamai therefore, no other shops have this similar dish.
The biography of Thipsamai, Padthai Pra-Too-Pee
Thipsamai first opened on 9 September 1966. Those days the restaurant had small tables on the sidewalk on Mahachai road. This was the original Padthai restaurant that was the most famous in Bangkok because of the quality and taste. In addition to this, the shop was the first that thought of the recipe for stir-fried rice noodles menu with shrimp fat in oil and the fresh sea prawns. A lot of restaurants copied from the shop. Today, Thipsamai Padthai Pra-Too-Pee is at the top of the list as the most popular restaurant when discussing about Padthai eateries in Bangkok.
Thipsamai started from a small wooden table shop with a stove to cook on a footpath near Samranrat intersection or what people in those days called “Pra-Too-Pee” (The Ghost Gate). Khun Samai Baisamut, an excellent chef, tweaked the recipe invented by her ancestors. Khun Samai was from Kratumban, Samutsakorn province. Her family was into farming, so the main income was from the products during the harvest seasons. Khun Samai’s daily routine was to help her mother sell goods along Phasi Charoen and Mahachai canals from dusk until dawn. In addition to this, she had many other jobs as she wanted to help her family make a living. Apart from being hardworking and tolerant, she was a skilled cook. She was interested in cooking since she was young and would always go and help in the kitchen when it was time to fix the meals. She, therefore, gained a lot of experience in the art of traditional cooking. She also tweaked the recipes and made them her own. As a result, her food retains the original flavors of thai cuisine and is delicious.
Later, Khun Samai married Khun Chote Baisamut, who was from Mahachai. While living with her husband in Mahachai, she learnt the new recipes, and wanted to open a restaurant. She began selling Padthai, using her mother’s recipe which contained Rice noodles with shrimp head juices and big shrimps wrapped in an egg. Khun Samai’s Padthai became very popular. While khun Samai’s business was doing great, Khun Chote’s fishing boat business suffered a downturn. They decided to move to Bangkok to start a restaurant business. After that, they finally decided to sell Padthai in Samranrat area (near Pra-Too-Pee intersection) because the place was perfect to sell food.
After finding the location, Khun Samai sold Padthai on at the footpath at night. The dish was THB 1.50, with an addition of 50 satang with an egg. The business did so well that it became the most tasty Padthai in Bangkok. Later, Khun Samai decided to rent a place nearby, so that the customers would have places to seek shelter in during the rainy season. This doubled her customers. However, due to the increase in the rent and the owner’s desire to start selling Padthai as she saw how great Khun Samai’s business was doing, Khun Samai and her husband finally moved out and opened a Padthai restaurant next to the old restaurant. As they did not want the customers to misunderstand that the 2 restaurants were related, they sold Padthai in front of the shop. The business did very well. Khun Samai was a cook herself while her husband kept inventing the new recipes to suit the palates of the customers more and more.
Thipsamai branches today
- Thipsamai Padthai Pra-Too-Pee
Open daily from 05.00 p.m – 02.00 a.m.
Tel: +66 2 226 6666
- Thipsamai Phutthamonthon Sai 4
Open daily from 11.00 a.m. – 08.00 p.m.
Tel: +66 86 429 9999
- Thipsamai King Power Branch, Rangnam, 3rd floor, Thai Taste Hub Project
Open daily from 10.00 a.m. – 09.00 p.m.
Tel: +6692 288 8888
Further information visit: www.thipsamai.com