Spatula, Spoon and Saturday

Eating and Cooking all the things in Melbourne

The Lovely Noodles I Ate in Thailand

This is a bit of a left over of ‘What I Ate in Thailand‘ series.

We Thais love our noodles. Although we never really invented any of our own noodle dishes, we have managed to bastardise a few. And they are really genuinely good. One of the ones that Thais will proudly claim as their own is the pad thai (above). It’s not really. It’s still bastardised Chinese dish but with some distinct lovely Thai touches.

(a pad thai is usually served with fresh banana flower, lime, beansprouts and garlic chives)

A pad thai needs to have relatively bitey noodles (so soak these rice sticks in warm water for longer, don’t boil them) with a good complex sauce made of fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar and other goodies. I have a pad thai recipe on this blog somewhere but I’m quite embarrassed by its half-arseness.

While we’re on the scale of Thai-ness, this is a yum – or a salad. The word yum really doesn’t translate into salad quite nicely but it is indeed yummy. This noodle salad is made by blanching seafood, fish sticks, Vietnamese sausages, a pack of instant noodles (yep), a bit of vegetables and some herb (in this case Chinese celery leaves) and pile on the really hot dressing made of chilli, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and naturally a heap spoon of MSG. I have had some really good yum mamaa (instant noodle salad) but this one was truly awful. But you can’t really tell from the picture, can you?

This was the lovely noodle soup with stewed duck. This one is just a little more Chinese than others. The duck is stewed in broth with spices (the usual suspects in Chinese stew: star anise, cinnamon, oh who the hell knows). The noodles are and bean sprouts are blanched and topped with pieces of duck meat, cubes of duck blood, all sorts of wonderful stewed duck’s insides (but none in this picture because this was Josh’s and he wanted nothing to do with duck’s guts), a bit of garlic oil, Chinese celery leaves and the broth poured over.

Most noodles in Thailand are served with separate little bowls of sugar, fish sauce, picked chilli and crushed chilli powder. So you can totally ruin a perfectly good bowl of soup. But that’s what they do in Thailand. Not a tradition I approve, personally.

This is another Chinese rip-off. The Thai version of the won ton noodles. This version was egg noodles topped with roast pork (I guess it’s meant to be char siu but it failed, it was just orange) and topped with sweet-ish sauce. It wasn’t very good so I added a bit of pickled chilli and crushed dried chilli to it (words. eat.). A motorised cart selling these noodles go past my parents’ house every day and they do a much better than this food court mob.

Anyway the noodles were served with a small side of won tons in soup. Not very different from the Chinese version.

Another won ton noodles from near my mum’s office. This one was MUCH better. In fact, it was pretty damn good.

This is what is known as a yen ta fo. Sounds a bit like yong tau foo that you get in Malaysia/Singapore really. But it doesn’t quite taste anything like it. The red sauce (made with fermented tofu and a heap load of red colouring – much tastier than it sounds, I can assure you) gives the soup a characteristic pink hue. One must flavour it with liberal amount of chilli vinegar condiment. That’s my rule anyway.

The other interesting ingredients include water spinach (never beansprouts, god no), prawn balls (hehe), cubes of blood jelly, crunchy squid (I’m still vague about how it gets to that crunchy state – I’m going to guess being soaked in some sort of basic solution) and the all important deep fried won ton skin for the crunch (absolutely mandatory).

Last but not least my personal absolute favourite – the boat noodles. This is our answer to the Vietnamese pho. I can go into a long narrative about how this noodle came about and why it’s called boat noodle but I have already spent 3 weeks writing this post so next time when I try making it at home.

Basically it’s a thick, rich broth made from beef. The broth is thickened by blood (Don’t freak out if you have been eating it without knowing this. It means you can just keep eating it. I strongly suspect though that the versions you get overseas are made from pre-made powder which has no blood in it whatsoever. Disappointing.) It is always served ladled with liberal amount of the chilli/vinegar concoction so it’s almost always spicy, tangy and just plain rich.

Ordering this dish is always going to be complicated – you choose whether you want stewed beef, poached beef, beef balls (plain or tendon variety), liver, lungs, hearts, tendon, whatever. You can have it traditionally with soup or without soup, where it will be flavoured with dark soy sauce and a bit of crushed peanuts. It is still a little bit spicy.

As all noodles in Thailand, you generally get to choose what sort of noodles you want – thick, thin, wide, short, whatever. Generally though rice noodles only. I have had egg noodles in it but it’s not quite the same.

The most important thing is a crunch of pork crackling on top. Win. Absolute bloody win.

A Bangkok tradition of serving them in tiny little bowls (about 10 baht each). I think I went up to five once. I need to work on that. I am always really impressed when I see people with a pile high next to them.

I think I’m going to need to find a ticket to Bangkok now.

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