Pad thai, or phat thai, is a full flavored dish of stir-fried rice noodles with cooked and chopped eggs, bean sprouts, fish sauce, tamarind juice and red chili pepper, garnished with crushed peanuts, cilantro, lime and green onions. Protein added to the dish is usually a choice of shrimp, chicken or tofu.
Fish sauce is made from fermented fish. Although this doesn't sound pleasant, it imparts a complex, unique and authentic flavor to many Asian dishes—nutty, savory and well rounded—especially the longer it is fermented. The fish sauce flavor is something that cannot be duplicated by another ingredient. Tamarind juice comes from the fruit of the tamarind tree. Tamarind is used in pad thai for its sweet and tangy taste. The lime juice enhances the the tart flavor, while the fish sauce adds a salty element, among the other deeper flavors. The bean sprouts and crushed peanuts offer a crunchy texture as well as other layers of complexity in flavor.
The dish can be wonderful and well rounded, bursting with flavors and textures.
14025 Manchester Rd., Manchester
Nippon Tei has several regulars, and I know some "Food Fight" readers are fans of the restaurant. I think the specialty at Nippon Tei is sushi and not the pad thai. The dish was bland and somewhat sour, with not a hint of tamarind or fish sauce. The eggs did not blend well into the dish and did taste like scrambled eggs. It was, however, served with a slice of lime. The pad thai was not a star performer. The miso soup, served with the $9.95 pad thai, was quite tasty, though.
The good: The atmosphere, miso soup and spider roll sushi, ordered with the pad thai, were wonderful.
The bad: The flavor of the overall dish was lacking.
481 Lafayette Ctr., Ballwin
Manee Thai had been suggested to me before, and I was not disappointed. Lunch was served with the soup of the day (Tom Yum on the day I went), one crab angel and one spring roll for $7.99. The pad thai had a nice mixture of textures: soft noodles and crunchy peanuts as well as chewy tofu and egg. The flavor was slightly sour, maybe from lime in the sauce, a lack of fish sauce, which is said to add the savory flavor, or a lack of tamarind. The pad thai was not served with cilantro or a slice of lime, which I have come to expect from previous Thai restaurant experiences. The overall flavor of the dish was good, though. On a side note, the Tom Yum soup was exceptional. The broth, made from lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and other spices was deeply flavorful.
The good: The pad thai was great price for a generous portion of food. The food offered nice textures and flavors.
The bad: There was a lack of a savory element in the dish.
13441 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield
If an upscale, white tablecloth experience is what you are looking for, then Addie's Thai House is for you. The restaurant is nicely decorated, the service is formal but friendly, but it is expensive for the location and style of food. The pad thai at Addie's did have a savory element with the sweet and tangy flavor of the tamarind. The egg mixed in nicely without standing out and tasting like scrambled eggs. The pad thai kept you coming back for another bite, with textures and flavors that contrasted nicely against each other. The pad thai was not served with cilantro and lime.
The good: The décor and service was quite nice. The flavor of the pad thai was exceptional.
The bad: Although it was a nice restaurant, the prices were a little steep. The pad thai was only $11.95, but prices for soups started at $7.95 for a small bowl.
The winner: Addie's Thai House wins for its depth and roundness of flavor.