#2:  Thip Samai — The Best Pad Thai in the World

Tucked away in a (relatively) quiet corner of bustling Bangkok is perhaps the best Pad Thai restaurant in the world.   Thip Samai does nothing but pad thai, and they do it gloriously. Here’s what they say on their website:

PADTHAI or previously known as “KUAY TIEW PHAD”. PADTHAI was created in World War II during the time when country suffered a demand shortage. Under government of prime minister Pleak Phibunsongkhram. He thought highly of the nationalism and wanted to create a traditional food. Due to the high cost of rice production during the War, the prime minister encouraged people to eat noodle instead by creating domestic demand and using raw ingredients produced in the country. Thus, KUAY TIEW PHAD was created at that time. As time passed, people called this dish “PADTHAI”. Due to the unique taste and the popularity of PADTHAI became widespread until now. “Thipsamai Padthai Pratoopee” is the oldest Padthai restaurant in Thailand which has started its legendary reputation before the World War II. Thipsamai’s Padthai is originated upon a commitment to preserve the original Padthai’s recipe. We are the first one who created Padthai Sen-Chan with shrimp oil, deep sea prawns and wrapping egg (Superb Padthai) which has the unique taste and finest selected ingredients.

Eating at Thip Samai is a low-key affair. You sit, they notice you (eventually), and you choose from something like 4 options.  I opt for the one with the shrimpy egg wrapping, which is interesting and different.  My sweetie, Donica, goes for the plain version.  After ordering, we sip fresh mandarin orange juice that is the sweetest thing we’ve ever tasted.  (I can still almost taste it now!)  Eventually our food arrives and we dig into it while it’s hot, reveling in the complex yet subtle flavors.  After filling our bellies, we pay our $5 (or whatever) and pause outside to gape at the spectacle of mass quantities of noodles being flipped and agitated in a giant wok.

Thip Samai does one thing and one thing only. They don’t try to make spring rolls, or green curries, or mango-and-sticky-rice desserts.   They just do pad thai.    There’s a lesson here, I think:  don’t overwhelm your customers with too many choices.  Just be the best in the world at one thing.   Oh, I know. There are Michelin Star restaurants in Bangkok and elsewhere that do a better plate of noodles.  But I’m putting my money on the one and only Thip Samai, the pad thai specialists.  The experience of eating there is, well … WOW.


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