Oodles of Thai noodles

Noodle recipes are evolved through time. More noodle shops spring up each day and offer new kinds of noodle dishes. This is why there are so many noo…

Oodles of Thai noodles

Noodle recipes are evolved through time. More noodle shops spring up each day and offer new kinds of noodle dishes. This is why there are so many noodle shops in this country.

Not just a dish with a lot of varieties, noodles have a socio-historical background.

It is widely accepted noodles were introduced to Thailand by immigrants from China. The Chinese migrated to Thailand where agriculture was the backbone of the Kingdom. Thai people were not entrepreneurial. Most Thais owned plots of land and became farmers while others became civil servants.

Chinese immigrants did not own land and were not allowed by law to work in the civil service sector. Thus, trading was the best possible option and making noodles was the perfect choice for them. They prepared everything themselves starting from raising pigs, making noodles, growing bean sprouts, coriander and spring onions. Initially, some Chinese sold noodles in front of their houses, some were peddlers roaming the streets while some rowed boats around to sell their dishes.

Oodles of Thai noodles

Hainan style noodles.

Making pork noodles is easy. Just prepare pork-bone soup, boiled pork meat, boiled pork liver and minced pork. Notably, freshly prepared noodle soup is often not so delicious. After repeated meat blanching, the soup becomes savoury and tastier.

In addition to pork noodles, there is kuay tio nuea (rice noodles with beef), kuay tio luuk chin pla (rice noodles with balls of pounded fish meat), duck noodles, ba-mee moo daeng (wheat noodles with Chinese red pork), kuai tio khae (Hakka style), kuay tio gaeng (also known as kuay tio khaek, in curried coconut cream sauce) and kuay tio kati (rice noodles with coconut sauce).

Those are noodle dishes offered in Bangkok. There are also many regional recipes in each province as the locals adjust ingredients to meet their preferences. Most of the noodles sold in the provinces are pork noodles and are often called kuay tio boran (ancient noodles).

Oodles of Thai noodles

Yen ta fo (fish ball noodles with red sauce).

Noodles are usually named after the province. For example, it is called kuay tio Sukhothai in Sukhothai, kuay tio Cha Kung Rao in Kamphaeng Phet province. In Phitsanulok, it is called kuay tio hoy kha because noodles are sold in front of the house and customers have to sit on the floor, with their feet dangling from the balcony. All noodle varieties use similar ingredients including thin rice noodle, sliced boiled pork, red pork, minced pork, sliced string bean, kak moo (fried pork fat), ground dried chillies, ground peanut, chopped spring onion, lemon juice, fish sauce and sugar.

Sweet is a dominant flavour in Thai noodles. A noodle shop in Sam Phraek district, bordering Ang Thong and Lop Buri provinces, is famous for using thin rice noodles topped with all the typical ingredients. But the flavour is predominantly sweet, which comes from luscious palm sugar simmered in a little water. Today most sellers use granulated sugar instead.

Kuay tiew Loong Put (meaning “Uncle Put’s noodles”), in tambon Sri Samrong in Sukhothai province, is located at a house in a garden by the river. Loong Put used to be a boat noodle vendor. His noodles are called kuay tiew Sukhothai but he uses home-made egg noodles instead of thin rice noodles. The toppings include thinly sliced barbecue pork, pork balls, fried pork fat, sliced string beans, Chinese celery, coriander and green onions.

Oodles of Thai noodles

Dry pork noodles.

In Tak province, there is Pa Bang’s shop (Auntie Bang’s shop) selling a particular type of noodle in Hua Did village. She serves ba-mee (egg noodles) or sen lek (thin rice noodles) with soup and dry noodles with no soup, but with a seasoned mixture. Auntie Bang also prepares noodles in clear soup with no chilli for children.

Another type of noodle is offered at Pa Huay shop in Potharam, Ratchaburi province. Her rather sweet-flavoured noodles are served with special toppings including tofu and chopped pickled radish in addition to typical ingredients.

Noodles sold in each province have unique flavours. These provide a range of choices to noodle lovers and explain why there are so many noodle shops in Thailand.

Oodles of Thai noodles

Hakka style noodles.

Story & photos by Suthon Sukphisit