Samui Wining & Dining
Totally Tempting Treats

Pad Thai restaurant packs in history as well as great tastes.

Pad Thai restaurant packs in history as well as great tastes.While visiting Samui you'll probably want to try Thai food. You may have sampled the curries but one of its most delicious treats turns out to be neither a curry nor a rice-based dish. Pad Thai, or as it’s called in full, ‘kway teow pad Thai’ is one of Thailand’s most celebrated dishes. Simply put it’s stir-fried noodles. The dish is so good that one restaurant on the island has named itself after the dish.

Pad Thai, Manathai Koh Samui resort’s signature restaurant freshly prepares each ‘Pad’ dish on the menu to order. The expert chefs can recount the history and recipes of the dishes they present and are extremely knowledgeable. The stir-fried noodles are prepared in a traditional way using locally obtained ingredients.

But what exactly is Pad Thai? Firstly, the noodles are made from rice. Then there are various vegetables, bean sprouts, chopped firm tofu, peanuts, and egg, which are fried with eggs. The ensemble is then usually flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, shallots and palm sugar.

It’s good for you as well as tasty, and the dish became popular during the late 1930s when the Thai economy was in a dire slump. People didn’t have much money and a rice noodle dish with its vegetables, bean sprouts, and protein turned out to be a quick fix, enabling people to eat cheaply and healthily at the same time. The government made sure that the recipe became well-known and encouraged street vendors up and down the country to sell it. In short the authorities did pretty much everything to popularize the dish. It certainly looks like they succeeded, and probably more than they ever expected to. Not only has pad Thai long since become a staple dish but it’s well-known outside the country too.

The government also had a second motive in promoting the dish. It was part of a drive to reinforce a sense of Thai-ness in the country, boosting national pride and instilling a national identity. As such, you might think that the dish harkens back to a truly Thai heritage. Pad Thai restaurant packs in history as well as great tastes.But perhaps rather oddly, before the 1930s not so many people really knew about the dish. Rice noodles are in fact Chinese in origin, and most of the ingredients originally came from outside Thailand. Even the full name of the dish, ‘kway teow pad Thai’ is a giveaway: ‘kway teow’ is Chinese – not Thai – for rice noodles. So the name literally means ‘Thai-style stir-fried noodles’. But even if its origins aren’t quite as Thai as people might think, it has become a national dish, and certainly shows no sign of losing its popularity.

Pad Thai restaurant is a popular spot for all-day dining. It’s favoured by families as well as groups of friends and couples. The atmosphere here is very laid-back, with welcoming staff who are extremely helpful. The restaurant keeps long hours, opening at 10:00 am daily and closing at 9:00 pm. It’s very easy to find: as you drive along the ring-road from Chaweng to Lamai, you'll find it on your right just after the turning for Tamarind Springs.

You can try quite a few variations of pad Thai; order with chicken, shrimp, pork, beef or seafood – each dish is succulent and tasty. To accompany your choice, you can order a papaya salad – another extremely popular Thai dish. The à la carte selection includes dishes such as spicy spaghetti with beef, pork or chicken and sukiyaki soup. And if you really don’t want to have noodles, then you can opt for rice topped with basil along with a variety of meat or sea-food.

For desserts, finish off with another Thai delicacy, coconut ice-cream, particularly satisfying on a hot day. The drinks menu is quite select and includes Thai beers Singha and Leo, and there’s also young coconut juice for a particularly refreshing beverage.

The waiting staff dress in traditional Thai uniforms, and though it’s completely contemporary, the restaurant has a few features that recall Samui’s past. Check out the collage of photographs on the main wall and you'll see what I mean. Pad Thai restaurant packs in history as well as great tastes.The wall’s gently curved – think of one of those hyper-modern TV screens – and contains dozens of photographs, some from now, some from years back, paying tribute to Thailand’s rich heritage.

The restaurant has a spacious interior with a covered terrace. Both areas are neat and uncluttered, adding to Pad Thai’s relaxed vibe. You’ll probably feel like lingering and there’s certainly no rush here at all. Views are of Manathai’s colonial buildings, an oasis of old-world charm where walls adorned in cheerful yellow jasmine hues are complimented with soft white details to frame a vision of a bygone era of louvered windows, teak hallways and beautiful guest wings.

With a wonderful setting and quality food, it might come as a surprise that the prices are so affordable. Simply put, you can eat a main dish here for 70 Baht (and prices are inclusive of VAT and service charge).

If you’d like to try pad Thai for yourself, you'll easily find a restaurant wherever you are in Thailand, and even abroad it won’t be too difficult in many places. But you simply must try it at Manathai, since the restaurant has dedicated itself to making the dish in a number of extremely tasty ways. You'll probably soon become aficionados.


Dimitri Waring


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