One of the things that we really really really wanted to try in our maiden trip to Bangkok was boat noodles, so here’s a few basic background facts:
- Called boat noodles, because they used to be served from the boats plying the rivers/canals of Bangkok
- Also known as kuay tiew rua
- Still served from boats in places such as the floating market, but most of them have moved to land and have ‘proper’ restaurants to sell their noodles
- Usually thickened with blood (if this freaks you out, don’t think about it, its scarcely noticeable to taste)
Apparently the place to go for these babies is near Victory Monument BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) station.
Once leaving the exit tills, basically just follow the crowd and keep walking on the elevated platforms above street level towards the monument. After a brief 5-10 minute walk (depends on how hungry you are) and past the monument, you’ll see a bunch of stalls beside a river to the right. Take the stairs down and start looking for food.
Now a word of warning: these restaurants are situated beside a river (due to their heritage of serving the noodles from boats etc) and the river itself is filthy. There is loads of litter on the river. It smells terrible. We eat street food pretty regularly in Malaysia, but this is on a whole different scale. But we went with our instinct and tried it anyway. Plus my friend had Imodium on hand (which went unused, yay!).
The PigPig didn’t really find out which was the ‘best’ restaurant to go to for the boat noodles, so we kinda wandered around rather aimlessly and I stumbled onto a queue. Something I learnt while working in Singapore: if there’s a queue, just join it. So that’s how the 4 of us found ourselves in a boat noodle restaurant that didn’t speak English.
Here's a menu for your reference. We just pointed to the menu and told them we wanted one of each.
Eventually we worked out that they had 4 different types of soups, so we just tried one each. The bowls arrived, and the PigPig remembered reading that people can eat 5+ bowls each, because these bowls are tiny. Each bowl probably carried about 3 spoons of noodles. But it’s all good, because they’re only 10 Baht each (about RM1 or SGD$0.40), so order away.
The pork version
After a little while, we learnt that the flavours are pork, beef, tom yum and ####. We quickly developed our own personal preferences. For example, I preferred the slightly thicker strong beefy noodles, which is slightly more complex. My friend originally liked the pork, but later found he also preferred the more complex beef.
The beef version
The tom yum meanwhile was actually quite mild in terms of the pungent, sour and spicy 'tom yum' flavour we are used to, it's actually a bit sweet. Served with beansprouts, pork, fish cake, peanuts and bits of pickled vegetable.
All the soup bases however, are strongly flavoured, and have the distinctive Thai food style of being sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at the same time. Extra chilli is optional, but highly recommended.
Oh you may have noticed the fourth flavour is #####. That’s only because none of us have any idea what ##### was, and the waiters were unable to translate it. In the pictures, it’s the pink coloured soup. While it tastes sweet, salty, sour and spicy, much like all Thai food, it also has a stronger sour and odorous element described by the PigPig as ‘smelly socks’, which I assume to be due to fish sauce or something fermented. After much googling, I think the pink dish is yen ta fo. The pink colour comes from the special sauce made from preserved red bean curd and/or tomato ketchup.
So all the bowls are fairly straightforward then; a small bundle of noodles, a few strips of meat, a couple of meat balls, a smattering of morning glory (kangkung) and bean sprouts. Side dishes here are fishballs (not bad, but the accompanying chilli sauce is wickedly spicy) and fried won-ton pastry (sounds a little bit sad, its just fried pastry, but it was awesome to dip into the soup) and pork crackling (we passed on this).
Here are some tips then:
- Ignore how dirty it looks. It’s fine. We didn’t get sick. A tip I picked up later is to avoid the straws though.
- They taste delicious. Try them all. Try a few of each.
- Order a few bowls at a time otherwise you’ll still be hungry and have to wait another 5-10 minutes for the next order to come in.
- The 4 of us ate 22 bowls altogether, and we were holding ourselves back as we were aiming for dessert afterwards. We saw locals eating 7-10 bowls each.
- Some people like to order a few bowls (4 or 5 seems reasonable to me) then throw them all into one, to create a decent sized serving.
- There are seasonings on the table: sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, salt, all free to use. But we didn’t think it was needed.
- The water on the table are free.
Take the BTS and stop at Victory Monument BTS station, and walk northbound towards the monument. Once you past the monument, look down to the streets and find this stretch of stalls lining the canal. PS. we tried the shop with waitress wearing bright orange tops.
Details of restaurant:
Sutyot Kuetiau Lua Payak
Link on Foursquare
Thanks to a kind reader Rcadventure :)