Few dishes combine the powers of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a term you should know intimately) the way pad thai does. All we can really liken it to is the intro from Captain Planet. It strikes a flavor chord that captivates our taste buds until the very end. Enlisting the savory dominion of fish sauce, tangy moxie of tamarind and lime juice, potent heat of Thai chilis and just a sprinkle of sugar to round it out, pad thai is most certainly a force to be reckoned with.
While pad thai may be the national dish of Thailand, it's been around for less than a century. Prime Minister Luang Phibunsongkhram built rice noodle factories around Thailand during the 1930s and 40s to create jobs for poor citizens and to help a growing population cut down on foreign rice consumption. After the war, with noodle production employing a large portion of the country, the government launched a series of nationalist programs to educate workers on how to prepare noodle dishes deliciously for the masses. Hundreds of small cafes went up around the country, and pad thai was born.
That historical tidbit provided, pad thai's for lunch today in honor of everyone who went out last night and is feeling the burn this morning. Owing to the sweet-salty-crunchy combination, the chewy, soft noodles and much-needed protein from eggs, chicken or shrimp, and those wonderful, dense little bits of smoked tofu, pad thai just may be the perfect hangover food. So squeeze on the lime and eat hard, play hard and work hard in that order exactly. It's Friday.