Ordering Noodle Soup in Thailand Made Easy

Noodle Soup (Kuay Teaw) can be found on almost every street corner of Thailand from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. Here is a quick and simple guide to ordering soup on the streets of Thailand so that you can sample and try out lots of variations and find your favourite for less than a pound/dollar a bowl.

The Meat

A stand will usually be serving one particular type of meat; pork, chicken, beef or duck. There is also one other type of stand which sells boat noodles which I will explain later.

It’s usually easy to figure out which stand sells what as they generally have icons like cartoon pigs or chicken drumsticks, however if you are not sure, just look into the stand and check it out. Note that almost all stands regardless of the meat they sell, will have stacks of meatballs and fishballs, so looking at these will not give you much of a clue. If you are still not sure, you can point and ask. Moo is pork, Gai is chicken, Nua is beef and Pbed is duck. They will quickly tell you what they offer. The beef and duck soup will have a darker broth.

The varieties within the meat type

Once you’ve found the stand that offers the meat you fancy, you can then choose the cut of meat that you want and also add or deduct extra items such as dumplings, liver, blood cake, wantons and meatballs. Meatballs or fishballs are almost always included so knowing that they are highly processed is a good tip and you may want to ask for them to be deducted. ‘Mai Luk Chin’ ( I don’t want the balls)

Cuts you can get

Beef – Meatballs (Luk Chin), small cut beef (Nua Sod), and the soft beef (Nua Peuay).

Pork – Pork balls (Lukk Chin Moo), fish balls (Luk Chin Pla), minced pork (Moo Sub) Red Pork – roasted, seasoned pork loin (Moo Deng)

Duck – Regular duck meat (Neur), drumstick (Nong), wings (Bpeek), blood (Leo-od), intestines (Sai).

The Soup Types

Naam Sai

Naam Sai is a plain broth that is always yummy and tastes so different depending on which vendor you go to. This is the real go to dish for tourists and when the little veggies and garnishes are added, just tastes wonderful.

Naam Tom Yam

Naam Tom Yam is the same recipe as Kuay Teaw Nam Sai, but chili paste, crushed peanuts, lime juice, chili powder, sugar and fish sauce are added to give it that classic tom yam flavour.

Naam Tok

Naam Tok is broth where blood has been blended into the stock which it makes it totally delicious and gives it a deep brown gravy colour.

Yen Ta Fo

Yen Ta Fo is a pink coloured noodle soup served with fish balls, prawn balls, fried tofu, squid, morning glory and fried dumplings (giaw). The pink colour comes from adding red bean paste to the broth. The soup is a little sweet and it’s always a surprise as to what ingredients you will find in there.

Soup without the Soup?

You can also get your noodle soup dry by using the term ‘heng’ (dry). All the items will be cooked in the big container of broth but no broth will be added to your bowl. (The broth is served on the side.) You end up with something a bit like a noodle stir fry but the ingredients are boiled.

Boat Noodles – Kuay Taew Ruea

This type of noodle soup was first served on boats that were converted into noodle soup stations on the canals of Bangkok. Blood called “Nam Tok” is poured into the soup right before serving which gives the soup a distinct colour. It also has different herbs to regular soup such as cinnamon giving it a really rich and distinctive flavour. In the past, a person who sold boat noodles would have been selling alone so if the bowl was too big it would be difficult to hand over to the customer on the land. For this reason the bowl is usually small. Kuay Taew Ruea can come with pork, beef or duck depending on the vendor and liver and blood cake is often added. Don’t be put off by the term blood cake, it is delicious and soft. The featured image is boat noodles with beef.

Types of Noodles To Choose From

Rice noodles are called ‘Sen’ and come in various styles: sen yai (wide, flat fresh noodles), sen lek (thin, flat, dried noodles), and sen mee (thin, round noodles)  Other noodle types are: ba mee (egg noodles) woon sen (glass vermicelli made from mung beans) and mama (instant noodles) – what noodle you choose is entirely up to you, there are no rules.

 Man making noodle soup with pork and offal.
Man making noodle soup with pork and offal.

Making sure anything you don’t want stays out!

  • No entrails/intestines/offal –  ‘Mai Nai’
  • No blood –  ‘Mai Leo-od’
  • No liver –

Vegetables and garnishes

As your vendor prepares your soup you will see them adding veggies. They tend to be roasted garlic, bean sprouts, morning glory, parsley and sometimes spring onion.

Seasoning

The last step is to season your noodle soup to your liking which you do yourself at your table. Every table should have a little hand carrier with four kinds of seasoning in it.

  1. Dried chili flakes
  2. Fish sauce (salty)
  3. Sugar
  4. Vinegar and sliced chilies (sour)

Here is a little video which shows a Thai lady making noodle soup

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ordering noodle soup in thailand - PI

Images courtesy by Alpha of Flickr.com