So what do I have against ketchup? I actually love this condiment especially, Heinz. Even with all the “gourmet” brands out there nothing beats it. It has a perfectly well rounded taste of tart and sweet. As for me, no fry can be eaten without a dip in ketchup, nor eggs in morning. It’s not a masking of flavor, but an enhancement for certain foods. It’s also perfect for making sweet and sour sauce. However, 3 things to keep ketchup away from are 1.) hot dogs — mustard all the way 2.) a nicely charred, medium-rare ribeye, or any kind of steak (savor the meaty flavor) and 3.) pad Thai.
Ketchup in pad Thai ranks up there with the thought of crab Rangoon being Thai. Just say NO! Chez Pim put it best by calling ketchup in pad Thai an abomination. I think my feelings about a ketchup based pad Thai would be similar to someone from Tuscany, Italy eating spaghetti at the Olive Garden. The idea of it is kind of there, but don’t call it authentic cause it is far from it.
Many, many global recipes that have become part of the American diet have had no choice but to be tweaked due to the lack of resources. There are certain things you just can’t get in America. When my parents came to the US 30 years ago you couldn’t find things like lemongrass, galangal or tamarind let alone fish sauce. You had to be creative to produce foods with flavors as close to authentic as possible when you missed the Motherland. I can see where the tart yet sweet flavor of ketchup can be a substitute (a poor one, but a substitute none the less) to tamarind an essential ingredient to the traditional pad Thai recipe. I’m sure the first wave of Thai immigrants who decided to try to achieve the American dream via restaurants had to do what they had to do to survive, so there goes ketchup in pad Thai. Ok, that’s fine, but now that globalization’s fingers have reached even areas like Central Maine, and more Americans are aware of how certain foods should be due to channels like the Food Network there really is no need to use ketchup.
Again, then on the other hand, restaurants that have been using ketchup in their recipes, fine, it is what it is, but please don’t say that this is the “authentic” ( definitely not “traditional” ) pad Thai recipe. Try to salvage whatever integrity is left of the dish. You can adapt, but please don’t compromise.
The dishes at Pad Thai Too are tweaked to a certain degree, we are not immune from the tweaking of foods because there is no choice due to available resources and general demographics. I don’t want to give off a holier than thou stance compared to other Thai restaurants. People have there preferences. The Pad Thai family promises our customers this, “We will work our hardest to share with you the flavors of Thai food as close to authentic and traditional as possible while maintaining the integrity of Thai cuisine even after having to substitute some ingredients.” The first step starts by not using ketchup in pad Thai.
If there are people out there who enjoy pad Thai with ketchup, all right, that’s your preference. My only concern is to let it be known that it is by no means authentic or traditional.