We briefly mentioned boat noodles in our article about Ayutthaya restaurant scenes previously. If you’ve read that article, you should know that they are one of the most famous dishes in Ayutthaya. But there is a lot more to this noodle with dark color soup that you can find across Thailand. We previously covered another popular noodle dish in Thailand, Tom Yum noodles. So, what is a Thai boat noodle, and how to order boat noodles so that you can enjoy a boat noodle meal? Find out more in this article!
Table of Contents
What is Thai boat noodles?
Just like many other noodles, a boat noodle is a hot soup noodle that comprises noodles, broth, meat/meatball, and vegetables. However, what sets this noodle apart is their dark color soup made from herbal ingredients and pig blood. We will cover more on the soup in the following section.
Another unique characteristic of this noodle is the way each bowl is served to you. They typically come in small bowls, some are very small that it costs THB15 but you may need to eat up to 4-6 of those to be full!
The good thing about a small bowl format is that you can make each bowl different or adjust the number of bowls so that you do not under/over-eat! We will cover more about how to order at a boat noodle restaurant later on.
Lastly, a boat noodle meal is not complete without fresh vegetables and herbs like bean sprouts and holy basil leaves. Also, crispy pork/pork skin is an excellent topping for boat noodles. You can end your meal with some Thai coconut desserts.
Boat noodles: Ingredients and recipes
While we have had endless bowls of boat noodles, we do not claim to be an expert in the kitchen. Therefore, we will be referring to a recipe from Wongnai for this section. This ingredient list is for boat noodles, but to be more specific, it is for “nam tok” boat noodles, which is the thick, dark soup type commonly found in boat noodle restaurants.
Boat noodle soup is full of herbs and spices like cinnamon, star anise, cumin, coriander seeds, and pandan leaves. In fact, these herbs and spices are key to bringing out fragrance in the soup. So what makes the soup dark and slightly thick? The secret lies in remaining ingredients such as fermented garlic, fermented bean curd, and dark soy sauce. If pig blood is something that you do not wish to have, you can also request the vendor to exclude this from your soup. This should be doable as vendors normally add this ingredient after they make the main soup.
We cannot close this section off without mentioning a special kind of vinegar that customers can opt to put into their boat noodles. This vinegar is made by combining vinegar with roasted chili giving it a nice fragrance, and spicy & sour taste.
Original boat noodles in Thailand
Why is this type of noodle called boat noodle? Boat noodle draws its name from a traditional practice where noodle vendors travel along canals and rivers to serve their customers. This is the reason why you will find some boat noodle restaurant formats using the boat in their concept:
1) Having a symbolic boat inside the restaurant, typically in front of the kitchen area
2) Selling boat noodles in a boat inside floating markets. If you visit any floating market in Thailand, you are most likely going to see small boats sailing around selling noodles!
3) Put their boat noodle restaurant on a large boat where you can order and have your meal inside the boat itself! This restaurant format is common north of Bangkok around Rangsit area
How to order boat noodles
Boat noodle is highly customizable, you can specify what kind of ingredients you want to have based on some options available.
A few essential components that you can customize include:
- Noodle type: thick/thin noodle, vermicelli, egg noodle, or even instant noodle
- Meat type: fresh pork/beef, braised pork/beef, meatballs, pork liver
- Soup vs. dry
Other customizations are also possible but not very common
- Vegetables: you will typically find morning glory, bean sprout or kale (although uncommon), if these are not to your liking, you can ask for exclusion
- Soup: As we mentioned previously, the thick dark soup or “nam tok” boat noodle contains pig blood, you can ask for this to be excluded
Optional add-ons in your boat noodle meal include the crispy pork skin, this is highly recommended! Another must-have toppings would be fresh holy basil leaves and bean sprouts. All of these will add interesting texture and taste to your noodles. Lastly, if dessert is your thing then finish your meal off with coconut desserts!
Should you try this dish?
Definitely! Boat noodle is a popular Thai dish. How many bowls should you have? Many! Just have as many as you need to make yourself full. Understanding how to order boat noodles will help you to customize yours according to your wishes.
You can enjoy original boat noodles in Bangkok or if you are going to Ayutthaya, you can also try boat noodles there. Ayutthaya is a place surrounded by water, so naturally, there are a lot of Thai boat noodle shops around. To try Thai boat noodles, you don’t need to go to the floating markets as there are a lot of vendors inland as well.
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