Visitors to Thailand, whether novices or die-hard foodies, cannot miss one of the country’s most ubiquitous dishes as they negotiate the country’s varied foodscape. Pad thai, that beloved local fry-up of flat noodles, veggies, tofu, and/or meat, can be found on most menus in restaurants as well as at street food carts throughout Bangkok. However, don’t think of this as the definitive Thai noodle experience for there are plenty of wonderful dishes that merit more than a taste. Here are a few noodle favourites and where to find them.
Among the most popular Northern Thai dishes, the Burmese-influenced khao soi (from the coconut based ohn no khao swè) is a delicious departure from the fried, seafood-heavy noodle dishes popular in central and southern Thailand. This rich dish is made of fried, crisp egg noodles, mustard greens, shallots, and meat, all drenched in a thin coconut-based curry. While it’s easy to find khao soi in restaurants and at street food vendors in northern cities such as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, it’s more challenging to track down this northern classic in the capital. Still, the few places that do offer it tend to do it well; the Bangkok branch of Chiang Mai restaurant Lam Duan Fah Ham is among the best (Soi 58, Vibhavadi Rangsit; +66-2-5796403; THB35-45/₹66-85).
Second only to pad thai in popularity, pad see ew is a mix of wide, flat rice noodles, veggies, meat or tofu, shrimp, and eggs cooked in a mixture of dark and light soy sauce. While this beloved street food is easy to find throughout Bangkok, the meat-free pad see ew at May Kaidee Vegetarian Restaurant near the backpacker haven of Kao San Road is particularly tasty. The restaurant also offers cooking lessons for those who want to impress friends and family with their mastery over Thai vegetarian cooking (Tanao Road, behind Burger King; +66-2-6294413; www.maykaidee.com; open 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; dishes from THB80/₹152; cooking class from THB1,000/₹1,920).
A lesser-known Thai noodle dish, suki haeng is a fried noodle dish consisting of glass noodles (ultra-thin vermicelli-style noodles), wok-fried with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, water spinach, eggs, and tofu and/or meat and served with a spicy, garlicky dip. It’s similar to its soupier cousin, sukiya (a popular Japanese DIY hotpot dish reinterpreted for the Thai palette). Locals recommend the suki haeng at Elvis Suki, a street vendor meets cafeteria-style restaurant that’s been serving up tasty and inexpensive renditions of the dish for decades (No. 200/37 Soi Yotse, Plubplachai Road; +66 (0)2 223 4979; www.elvis-suki.com, THB40-50/₹76-95).
Although vegetarianism is not unheard of in Thailand, many local dishes incorporate fish sauce or shrimp paste, so vegetarian diners should specify if they don’t want either. Also, note that vegetarian or “jay” dishes as they are called in Thai, often include eggs. If you don’t eat eggs remember to separately request a version of the dish without them. And while vegetarians are usually better off eating at all-vegetarian restaurants or spots popular with tourists, there are some excellent veg street food options, particularly near the temples. Vegetarian food is usually indicated with a red “jay” inside a yellow circle or flag (see here).
Appeared in the March 2016 issue as part of “Your Own Private Thailand”.