The area around northern Bangkok’s Victory Monument is home to several restaurants selling kuay tiaw ruea, ‘boat noodles’. The restaurants are known for serving exceptionally cheap – at little as 5B – bowls of the dish, and are the legacy of a tradition that previously saw the noodles prepared and sold from small wooden boats in a nearby canal. Today, the canal is fetid and mostly empty and all the shops have moved to land. The restaurants remain quite well known, but aren’t particularly tidy or tasty, and their setting at the edge of a stinky canal isn’t very inspiring.
Luckily, a couple blocks away on a slightly more pleasant stretch of the canal, is, Sam-Ang Kulap. Having served boat noodles for more than 40 years now, they claim to be among the first of five boats to have sold the dish in the area. According to a history of the restaurant that’s printed on the wall, a that time a bowl cost 1B, and it wasn’t until the late ’70s that they began to sell the noodles from land. They remain in the same location today:
In 2011 a bowl of boat noodles will set you back 15B (US$0.50), but the despite the low price, the noodles here are solid, and in my opinion could serve as the archetype for a well done, balanced bowl of a boat noodles. The broth is rich, round and meaty with relatively little spice flavour or spiciness, and is supplemented with a few cuts of tender meat (beef or pork), blood, and/or meatballs. The bowls emerge from the boat-shaped prep station with amazing speed:
perhaps a legacy of the boat era.
Ask for a bowl of par-boiled phak bung (a crispy green vegetable sometimes called morning glory) and you have a delicious and balanced, Bangkok-style meal.
Soi 18, Th Ratchawithi, Bangkok
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