You order a plate of pad Thai, I do the same and, out in the kitchen or right in front of you, the cook stir-fries them, noodles, bean sprouts, egg, shrimp to his or her usual recipe. But don't dig in when the plate comes to the table because what you, the customer, then do is tinker with the flavours. Your aim is to create the right balance of heat, sweetness, saltiness and sharpness. Where western restaurants limit you to salt and pepper, even the most modest Thai restaurant sets out four different condiments.
For heat, you have dried crushed chilis.
Sugar gives you sweetness.
Fish sauce--nam pla--provides the salt element.
The sharpness comes from vinegar, often with thinly sliced green chilis floating in it.
Lift the pink cloche...
And there you go...
A slightly posher presentation.
And one that acknowledges the Thai passion for pink (photo essay coming up).