Ever since I booked flights to Bangkok, I had my eyes and stomach set on visiting Thip Samai, perhaps Bangkok’s most famous noodle institution, known for one dish and one dish only: pad thai.
Who comes to Thailand to eat pad thai, quite possibly the most pedestrian of Thai dishes anyway? But Thip Samai is outstanding, as evidenced by the huge crowds (locals and foreigners alike) that form every afternoon, even before the restaurant opens its doors.
The eatery is well ingrained into the neighborhood, first opening its doors in 1966. Thip Samai is located in the heart of old Bangkok, making it a good dinner pitstop after sightseeing in Rattanakosin Island. And that’s exactly what we did. We spent the afternoon trekking Phra Nakhon District and hit up several Buddhist temples by foot, before seeking a nice respite at Wat Ratchanatdaram and waiting for Thip Samai to open. (The restaurant is only open on evenings, from 5 pm to 3 am).
At around 4:50 pm, we made it to the shopfront, shocked by the huge throng of diners that had already congregated. Fortunately, we were seated within 25 minutes.
An assembly line of restaurant cooks were stir-frying noodles in the open, giving the place a very old school ambiance. I’ve mentioned it before, but I really enjoy watching chefs whip up dishes before my eyes.
Diners really ought to be visually connected to their food and how it’s prepared. It was exciting to see firsthand how many hands are involved in the preparation of each dish.
Pad thai gets its distinct scorched taste from the immense heat that the noodles undergo. It’s not your conventional stove, but a super-charged open flames of charcoal, that’s cooking the noodles.
Another note: Thip Samai is also famous for its fresh orange juice. It’s so popular that the price per bottle fluctuates every day. On our visit, a large bottle was ฿130 (~$4 USD), a small ฿70 (~$2 USD).
The OJ is legit, and makes an excellent pairing to pad thai. Juicy, filled with real pulp, and with a sweet and mellow tangerine flavor, more so than American orange juices, which can be quite acidic. The OJ was so addictive that I decided to buy another large bottle for the next morning.🙂
The menu offers a several varieties of pad thai. But I knew right off the bat what I was going to order.
I immediately pointed at the supreme pad thai (ผัดไทห่อไข่กุ้งสด), traditional pad thai wrapped in an egg crepe before serving. At ฿80 (~$2 USD), it was a bit more expensive than the usual.
The cooks manage to keep the plates so pristine because they actually swap out with a new clean plate after wrapping the pad thai in egg. This attention to plating detail, if anything, demonstrates the immense care that they put into their dishes. (Just imagine how many more thousands of plates have to be washed each day).
The noodles were on the thinner side, moist and chewy, seasoned for a nice sweet and sour contrast (fish sauce plus tamarind juice). The egg was cooked to perfection. Foregoing the standard proteins found in Thai American versions of pad thai, my plate came with dried shrimp and tofu. The noodles turn an orange-pink hue from the dried shrimp oil that’s used. Fresh bean sprouts, coriander and lime wedges were served on the side.
My dad, being conscious of his starch intake, opted for the pad thai without noodles. It came out looking like a delicious stir-fried salad of tofu, eggs, dried shrimp, diced Chinese chives, and cilantro.
Arooy maak! This is definitely a repeat for when I return to Bangkok.
Warning: Taxis in the area tend to rip off tourists in terms of taxi fare. By law, Bangkok taxis are supposed to turn on the meter, but it took a few tries before a taxi offered to take us back to the hotel by metered fare (Drivers make more by quoting a fixed price instead of using the metered rates). I guess the government needs to clamp down on this bad behavior.
Thip Samai ผัดไทยทิพย์สมัย
เลขที่ 313 – 315 ถนนมหาไชย
313-315 Mahachai Rd, SamranRat,
Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200