Who wants noodles must choose
You have just made a long walk through the mountainous landscape at Chiang Mai, or in Bangkok you have seen more different temples than you knew existed. Not only are you a bit tired, you feel like eating. Luckily in Thailand there is a lot to choose from when you get hungry.
The Thai know their way blindly in the forest of food stalls, they know exactly what specialty each restaurant or street food trader has. One sells white rice with cooked chicken and cucumber, another steaming noodle soup. If you take noodle soup, you are faced with a choice: which noodles do you take?
Welcome to the short course noodles. To start with, noodles that will create confusion among the Dutch: noodles.
Ba mee in Thailand is an egg noodle made from dough and egg. They are mainly eaten in soup (usually with pork, wonton and some vegetables). They are popular, but are not as popular as the 'noodle brothers' sen lek (leak means small in Thai) and sen yai (yai is big).
The sen lek rice noodles are slippery, slippery and soft and therefore look a bit like Udon noodles, which are native to Japan. They are about half a centimeter wide and are mainly used for pad thai or for soup, such as gai cheek noodle soup.
GRANDMA PU AND GRANDMA PAE
We have heard that the sisters Grandma Pu and Grandma Pae sold this gai cheek noodle soup with chicken from their boat in the Chao Chet canal near Ayutthaya. For the soup the chicken was pulled on strips by hand. The soup of Pu and Pae became so popular that the sisters went ashore and started a restaurant behind the Chao Chet temple. This chicken noodle soup then grew into a local delicacy. So if you are in Ayutthaya, you really should try this soup.
Sen yai is also a rice noodle for soup, but much thicker, about 2 centimeters. For rice noodles, finely ground rice is mixed with water, then steamed and cut to the desired thickness. Because they have already been steamed, they do not need to be cooked again at home in the pan, just warming them up is enough.
THICK, FLAT, ROUND OR THIN
In China, noodles were first made some four thousand years ago. They were called 'cake' and cooked in soup. That they quickly became popular is because they were affordable and filled the hungry stomachs well. When something gets a reputation, others get to work with it, so hundreds of different types of noodles, thick, flat, round or as thin as a hair (tarragon beard noodles) have emerged over the course of many years. They were cooked in different ways, given a regional flavour, made juicier or fatter, oiled or served cold. But that they got on the international menu is thanks to the Japanese.
About sixty years ago, the Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando developed instant noodles, noodles that were briefly heated in oil at a high temperature so that the moisture evaporated. That made them last longer. The popularity of instant noodles grew slowly in Japan, but when noodles appeared on the market in a sturdy plastic cup in the early 1970s, noodles began to conquer the world. By the way, our instant cup noodles are not baked the way Momofuku did. We first cook them and then let them dry. That's just a little bit healthier.
THAI NOODLE SOUP
Little is known about the origin of many Thai dishes. Kuay meow (noodle soup) was originally a simple dish of steamed rice and boiled cow guts. It was sold on street corners to workers and rickshaw drivers. It was (like the noodle soup in China before) cheap and nutritious. Later the rice was replaced by noodles and the intestines by other meat, but the name remained.
Kuay caraway is still popular and is served in many ways, with meat or fish balls, with vegetables or shellfish. And not only that, you can also choose whether you eat the dish 'wet', as soup, or 'dry', as fried noodles. For many Thai, kuay tiauw is the perfect lunch dish.
Are you ready to order your noodle soup? Wait, there's more to choose from. From these two, for example: Sen mie and woen sen, we call them glass noodles for convenience. Sen mie is a thin rice noodle, also known as mihoen.
Closely related is woen sen, a thin, almost transparent noodle made from starch from the mung bean, a herbaceous plant, or sometimes from potato or cassava.
So now you know enough about noodles to start smothering delicious noodle soup. In the end you just have to taste them to find out which one you like best. Oh yes, in Thailand you often get a cube of coagulated pork blood with your noodle soup. It is that dark red cube that floats on your soup. Just so you know.