It's no secret that the Thais love noodles. Noodles are some of the most ubiquitous dishes in the country, available on nearly every street corner and in just about every restaurant. And it's easy to understand why people love them: they're cheap, satisfying, customisable, and come in a huge variety of shapes and forms, and from a variety of culinary and cultural influences.
Yet despite all this, I have to admit that I've never been crazy about Thai noodles.
I'm a rice man. I'll almost always opt for a plate over a bowl. And being a fan of savoury, salty, spicy flavours, I've long found that Thai noodles tend towards the sweet end of the spectrum. Given that noodles are so ubiquitous and cheap in Thailand, I've also found that they're frequently made with poor quality ingredients, the worst culprit being broth made from MSG-laden powder. Yet occasionally, when pointed in the right direction, I encounter a bowl that makes me reconsider my allegiance to rice.
The most recent case for noodles was made at Lim Yuu Hong, a longstanding Thai-Chinese place off Bangkok's Th Charoen Krung. The owners claim that the restaurant has been in operation for more than 50 years, a fact clearly evident in its ancient noodle cart, marble-topped tables, condiments held in ancient pop bottles, and other charming, old-school touches:
I ordered kuaytiaw kai tun (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวไก่ตุ๋น), chicken braised in a broth seasoned with Chinese-style spices:
which the owner suggested I couple with what he called poh, flat, squiggly egg-and-wheat noodles.
It was exactly what Thai noodles should be: rich, fragrant and balanced — the bowl barely needed any additional seasoning. And no wonder: as the owner was happy to share, he makes his own broth from scratch with bones (chicken and pork), bags of dried spices and fresh herbs -- not a cube of Knorr to be seen.
If you order the duck version, it's combined with a scoop of pet phalo, duck braised in five-spice powder, a rich dark broth that also contains duck blood, heads and feet. The phalo also results in a sweet bonus: when braising the duck, the owner ladles off the fat that rises to the top and uses it to fry garlic until crispy, a topping that garnishes most of the restaurant's dishes:
These include similar soups revolving around pork bones and pork stomach, as well as the rather elusive khao tom pet (ข้าวต้มเป็ด), rice soup with braised duck.
Come earlier in the day, and Lim Yuu Hong functions as a coffee shop:
serving old-school-style "bag" coffee and sweet toasted buns with coconut jam.
But it'd be a pity not to order the noodles.
If you're hungry for more, here's a video about the coffee shop side of Lim Yuu Hong narrated by a man with a funny voice and hosted by self-professed "sexy" woman, Bowie:
Soi 43, Th Charoen Krung 6.30am-7pm Mon-Sat
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