A dish of stir-fried rice noodles is thought to have been introduced to the ancient Thai capital city of Ayuthaya by Viet traders[when?], and was subsequently altered to reflect the Thai flavor profile. During the late 1930s and 1940s, the dish was made popular in Thailand during World War II. Thai fascist government Plaek Phibunsongkhram named pad Thai as part of campaign to promote Thai nationalism and centralization, seeking to reduce domestic rice consumption. The Thai economy was heavily dependent on rice exports, and the prime minister hoped to increase the amount available for export by encouraging Thais to make and sell rice noodles from street carts and in small restaurants. Pad Thai has since become one of Thailand's national dishes and has become popular in many countries around the world.
Pad Thai is listed at number 5 on 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.