I blog about phat Thai on occasion, but mostly for you people. I realize it's huge abroad, particularly in the US, but to be honest, I'm not such a big fan of the stuff. Generally find it kinda stodgy and greasy, particularly when compared to a lot of Thai food out here.
But occasionally I'll meet a vendor that changes my perceptions of a dish. This was the case a while back when I went to Chinatown with my friend Be. She was born in the area and wanted to take me to some of the places where she ate when she was a kid. One of these was open-air stall serving tiny dishes of phat Thai on Thanon Ratchawong.
I had walked by this stall heaps of times previously, but had never stopped by or noticed anything in particular about it. It took Be's help and a closer look to reveal what I had been missing. To begin with, the couple, like many vendors in Bangkok's Chinatown, fry the dish over hot coals:
which provides the dish with a subtle smokey flavour. The noodles that they use are thinner than regular phat Thai noodles, and are chopped into short lengths. They've also been cooked beforehand, having been previously fried with most of requisite ingredients (sliced shallots, dried shrimp, bits of firm tofu, seasoning, egg). To order, they pull out the pre-cooked noodles and then heat them up with bean sprouts, chopped Chinese chives and additional seasoning. To go orders are served in krathong, the tiny banana leaf cups shown at the top of this post.
The couple work pretty slowly, and there are usually lots of to go orders, so this isn't exactly fast food. But if you're patient, you'll be rewarded with a phat Thai that is rich and liberally-seasoned rather than stodgy and bland (Be reckons they use duck eggs, which could contribute to this). And despite being re-fried, the dish isn't particularly oily either. Not quite sure how they accomplish that.
Phat Tha Ratchawong Thanon Ratchawong Most nights, 7-11pm
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