How Authentic Pad Thai Is Different From The American Version

There's no denying the popularity of Thai food within the United States. A report from the Splendid Table states that over the last 16 years, the Thai population has doubled in size, and with that expansion, the number of Thai restaurants has increased as well. A Vice report explains how there are over 300,000 Thai-Americans in the United States, less than one percent of the Mexican-American population, but that there are an estimated 5,342 Thai restaurants to 54,000 Mexican restaurants. That means in terms of the ratio of restaurants to population, there are about 10 times more Thai restaurants — and that's on purpose.

According to Splendid Table, the Thai government trains people on how to open the restaurants, and then sends them out to conquer the world. But, what happens when you bring a local cuisine to a country that doesn't always have all the ingredients you need? Things are bound to get lost in translation a bit, something that is noted by Eating Thai Food. A different culture, a different culture, with different resources: There are bound to be culinary adaptations that come into play.

How authentic pad Thai differs from its American cousin

According to Thai Table, to make an authentic, Thailand-style pad Thai, you need ingredients like Thai rice noodles, bean sprouts, banana flowers, Chinese chives, tamarind paste, preserved turnips, tofu, fish sauce, shrimp, and garlic — to name a few. An American-style recipe pad Thai recipe, per Cook with Claire, requires ingredients like stir-fry rice noodles, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil, chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, broccoli, and snow peas.

Far And Wide notes how American versions of Thai cuisine normally have vegetables that many native Thai would find unusual — broccoli and bell peppers, for two — as the vegetables native to the United States are oftentimes not found within Thailand. Another major difference between the two cuisines is that Thai food focuses more on herbs than its American cousin, according to Eating Thai Food. American dishes are known to be more meat-heavy than their Thai predecessors.

In many cases, native Thai, Thai-Americans, and American ex-pats who have significant time in Thailand will all tell you that the best place to have authentic Thai food is in the motherland — Thailand, herself.