Puu doesn't seem to understand why I want to take pictures of her cooking pad thai.

This is the Thai go-to dish, one of the simplest things a Thai can prepare and one of the cheapest a budget traveler can buy.

 But I remember a few months ago a US-based friend of mine had bemoaned her current pad thai recipe and although I've eaten plenty of the stuff, I never really paid attention to how it was different from Chinese-style fried noodles.

So I follow good-natured Puu over to the alley-side mini-kitchen she opened as a business a few weeks ago and watch her whip up a batch of succulent chicken pad thai as matter-of-factly as if I'd asked one of my US friends to butter a piece of toast.

She does all of the cooking for her food stall, "Food Corner" in a big wok resting on a single propane burner.

First in the wok for pad thai goes a dollop of peanut oil to grease the bottom of the pan. Then, she sprinkles in some thin slices of chicken and agitates it in the heating oil until the meat is white on both sides. Then she breaks an egg into it and using a spatula whisks it around with the chicken.

Next, she adds some water--it looks like about a cup and a half--and throws in a handful of dried rice noodles. She uses the thin, flat ones, but explains that I can use thicker ones or round ones.

The water sizzles in the oil and the white strands of noodle go limp in the middle and change color through the steam.

Now it's time for the flavoring.

Puu keeps all of her condiments lined up on the counter. First, a second-long dollop of oyster sauce. Then, I'm surprised to see, some ketchup. Next, sweet chilli sauce and a sprinkling of dried chilli. The next label I can't figure out but I recognize the smell from our eating adventures in Vietnam--fish sauce. She sprinkles in a little salt, a little sugar, a spoonful of chicken bullion.

The noodles have all succumbed to the heat and moisture, but still seem springy in the pan.

She turns off the heat and folds in a handful each of bean sprouts and grated carrot.

While the flavors merge, she cuts a slice of lime and a few pieces of cucumber. You can add more vegetables if you want, she says, shrugging.

"That's pad thai," she tells me, holding up my plate full of steaming noodles and flavor. "Eat."

Go to our Food and Drink pages to see more tantalizing images of pad thai and other Thai foods!