Pad Thai is, without a doubt, the most well known and most eaten Thai dish in the world outside of Thailand. You won’t find a Thai menu in any restaurant in the UK or Europe that doesn’t include this famous fried noodle dish. It’s just as widely available in Thailand with every hotel, guesthouse and Thai restaurant selling pad Thai.
That being said, I very rarely order the dish in Bangkok as I think there are far better-fried noodles to eat such as 'guay teow kua gai'. Too often you will find in restaurants it is sickly sweet and devoid of flavour…and don’t get me started on the ‘Pad Thai’ sold on the Khaosan Road!
The only place I’ll eat the know famous plate is from a stall that exclusively sells Pad Thai or a 'hoy tod' (mussel omelette) shop. To get the correct charred flavour into the noodles it has to be cooked over searingly high heat. There are a few places that do this well such as the famous Thip Samai, Sala Daeng food stall and my personal favourite, Narok Taek.
So What Makes Pad Thai Narok Taek My Favourite?
Narok Taek suits my taste perfectly. It isn’t overly sweet, the sauce used is quite tamarind heavy making it a little more sour than the average pad Thai. There’s also prik pao (roasted chili paste) added to the sauce to give it a nice little chili kick. Plus, it’s within walking distance from my apartment. Even if it wasn’t, I’d still make the trip here!
The food comes served in an egg basket with some extra bean sprouts, garlic chives, and of course, fresh lime wedges on the side. My favourite thing about this pad Thai is its crispy topping that I’ve only seen served here. Small dried prawns, which I’m not usually massively keen on, are fried with shallots, whole dried red chilies, and lime leaves to create a crunchy, salty, savoury topping that adds extra texture and flavour to the noodles. Don’t worry if you don’t like dried prawns, they end up tasting like a sort of prawn bacon once they’re fried!
There’s extra dried chili, peanuts, and fish sauce in bottles on the table so you can tweak it to suit your own personal taste.
High Heat Wok Cooking
The char on the noodles is ridiculous at Narok Taek. This comes from the extremely high heat that chef Aom cooks over. The flames literally come over the sides of the pan while he’s cooking. Seeing this wok master in action is worth the trip here alone. This is the difference between the pad Thai at Narok Taek and the pad Thai at an indoor restaurant or guesthouse. It’s impossible to get this kind of char on the noodles unless you’re cooking over this kind of heat.
What to order
Like I said earlier, they only sell Pad Thai at Narok Taek. That being said, you have some options:
Pad Thai with the crunchy prawn topping - 40 baht (£0.90, $1.30)
Pad Thai with two large river prawns - 70 baht (£1.60, $2.25)
Special Pad Thai which is the same as the prawn version with prawn crackers and fish maw - 90 baht (£2.00, $2.90)
My favourite is the pad Thai with two large, shell-on, fresh, juicy prawns. Cooked to perfection. If you’re a prawn fan, it’s a no brainer to pay the extra 30 baht. The special is a good value for what it is but it can be a bit much, all on one plate. When I’m really hungry, I order one with prawns and one with just the crispy topping!
How to get to Narok Taek
Narok Taek is located on Lat Ya Road, just by Wongwian Yai roundabout. It’s a 10 - 15 minute walk or 5 minute tuk-tuk or taxi ride from Wongwian Yai BTS Station. It’s also easily accessible on foot or taxi if you’re staying at the Millenium Hilton or Peninsula Hotels on Charoen Nakhon Road.
guest post by Thailand street food expert The Roaming Cook.