Many of the ingredients are provided on the side as condiments, such as the red chili pepper, lime wedges, roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, and other miscellaneous fresh vegetables.Vegetarian versions may substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce and omit the shrimp entirely.
Author Mark Padoongpatt maintains that pad thai is "...not this traditional, authentic, going back hundreds of years dish. It was actually created in the 1930s in Thailand by Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who was the prime minister at the time. The dish was created because Thailand was focused on nation building. So he created this dish using Chinese noodles and called it pad Thai as a way to galvanize nationalism."
Another explanation of pad thai's provenance holds that, during World War II, Thailand suffered a rice shortage due to the war and floods. To reduce domestic rice consumption, the Thai government under Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram promoted consumption of noodles instead. His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle called sen chan (named after Chanthaburi Province) was created. Pad thai has since become one of Thailand's national dishes. Today, some food vendors add pork or chicken (although the original recipe did not contain pork because of the government's perception that pork was a Chinese meat). Some food vendors still use the original recipe.
In popular culture
Pad thai is listed at number five on a list of "World's 50 most delicious foods" readers' poll compiled by CNN Go in 2011.
The Thai film Jao saao Pad Thai uses pad thai as a plot device as the protagonist claims she will marry whoever eats her pad thai for 100 days in a row.
On 7 November 2017, a Google Doodle featuring pad thai was displayed in the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and several countries in both Europe and South America. Google celebrated it as an initiative of Doodler Juliana. While she was researching how to prepare it, she aimed to show all the ingredients up close and with a colourful animation.