One of the culinary epicentres of Bangkok – and there are many – is at the aptly-named Boat Noodle Alley, very close to the Victory Monument, and I got my first ever taste of this traditional Thai dish one overcast afternoon.
OK, so the Victory Monument in Bangkok may be one of the most overrated “tourist attractions” in the city, but the fact is, not many people come here just to look at a large pillar in the middle of a roundabout with toxic traffic killing us slowly while we take photos. In fact, there is a small row of restaurants beside the klongs that is crying out to be a secret, it’s just that so many people know about this area now that it even appears in guidebooks!
Boat Noodles (know locally as Kuai Tiao Ruea) have a long history dating back since before World War 2, and were actually original served from boats that sailed along Bangkok’s infamous canals (klongs). In the past, a merchant who sold boat noodles would have been the only person working on a small boat, and would have had to do everything by himself, from paddle the boat, scald the noodles, season the soup, serve the dish, check the bill, AND wash the dishes!
I always like to learn about the legend(s) involved in the evolution of local food. Apparently, with these boat noodles, if the bowl was too big then it would be too difficult for the vendor to hand over to the customer from the boat, and potentially the noodles could spill into the water. It is claimed that this is the reason why the portion sizes of Boat Noodles are so small (nothing to do with penny-pinching, then?!). Regardless of the relatively small portions (I actually thought my serving was pretty decent), the noodles are delicious! Mine were thin egg noodles and the dish seemed to contain both pork and beef, which is kind of strange, plus I had some spicy meatballs thrown in for good measure – which seemed pretty random to me, although I am told this, too, is part of the Boat Noodle tradition!