Courtesy of Google

The history of Pad Thai is heavier than you'd expect.

Charlie Heller
November 07, 2017

If you visit Google's homepage today, you'll notice a particularly delicious Google Doodle based on America's top Thai food fave, Pad Thai. Inspired by Google Doodler Juliana Chen's research into the dish, the design features "pea-sized" characters acting as "culinary guides" through the preparation and consumption of a bowl of Pad Thai that, being at least a hundred times their size, represents an enviable Pad Thai-to-person ratio.

Google's accompanying explanation provides a simple recipe: "Soak rice noodles in water for a few hours. Fry some eggs with tofu. Throw in lots of vegetables. Toss everything around in a sauce of tamarind, fish, and shrimp. Top it all off with roasted peanuts. Stick a fork in, make it messy, and slurp it all up!" But more interesting is the history it provides of the dish. During World War Two, the post says, Thailand faced a shortage of rice, a staple food, but rice noodles were cheaply available. So, "an age-old recipe (thought to be introduced by Chinese traders) was popularized amongst vendors," which meant that "overnight, a national favorite was born."

Though this short gloss gets the broad strokes right, there's a bit more going on when it comes to the popularity of Pad Thai. According to a deep dive in The Atlantic, the way Pad Thai was popularized in the 30's and 40's was through active efforts by fascist Prime Minister Plaek Pibulsonggram, who disseminated the recipe both for its cheap nutritional value, and as part of an effort to create a new, "modernized" Thai culture that also involved changing the country's name, and banning local languages and dialects from schools.

Pad Thai, clearly, is bound up in some historical controversy, which, hopefully, this doodle will inspire the world to learn more about. That way, you'll have a complete understanding of the forces have ultimately led to you to crave it so much you'll make it for yourself.