Have you ever rented a car and driven to another province for a bowl of noodles? That's exactly what me, Hock and Andy did this weekend. Andy is the owner of Pok Pok, a popular Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon, and is on something of a noodle research expedition across Asia. I offered to contribute to this scholarship by taking him to Lung Lek, a noodle shop in Ayuthaya. Hock was kind enough to drive, his expensive mobile phone providing both navigational support and musical entertainment.
Lung Lek ('Uncle Lek') claims to have been making his unique 'boat-style' noodles (kuaytiaw ruea) for 30 years now. I reckon he's just about got it down. I really the beef version:
Unfortunately our first bowls were pretty mild, as seeing that we were not Thai, Lung Lek dumbed the flavours down, assuming we wouldn't be able to take the heat. Re-ordering brought us the bowl shown above. This type of noodle dish is called naam tok ('waterfall') and usually includes a swirl of fresh blood, but Lung Lek adds a tablespoon of the liquid used to marinade his beef. Like other boat noodles, his broth is laden with dried spices, and has a dark colour. Unlike others, Lung Lek's noodles aren't sweet, and his broth is much richer.
Lung Lek's nearly half-century investment has proven worthwhile, in my opinion. Now if he'd only put the ladle down for a day or two and consider improving the aesthetics of his restaurant (little more than rickety tables on a dirt floor under a ratty tarp). If he wishes to maintain some of the more rustic elements of the current restaurant he could could make the simple transition towards French Country, however I'd suggest something a bit more radical like the Queen Anne-inspired whimsy of Raul Villares Gayan's Nouveau series.
Th Chee Kun (across from Wat Ratburana), Ayuthaya