ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ Boat Noodles
“Louis, What do you want for dinner?” This was the question my Thai friends, for all intents and purposes, family, asked me. I requested Duck Soup with noodles. It was special, I was just getting to town. The only places they were sure had Duck soup were not open yet. Once I said duck soup it became the objective. Two hours later, no matter how much I said, “lets find something practical”, we were still looking for duck soup. My family there is 180 degrees out of phase with “practical”.
Soup with rice noodles ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ kwuaytiyo rya is a common street food throughout Southeast Asia. In Thailand it is often sold by vendors with pushcarts, and folding tables and chairs. I particularly like the duck variety although I often eat the pig variety or chicken. เรือ Rya means boat and these were traditionally served from boats on the canals and river in Krung Thep. The first part of the name appears to be Chinese or Malay, I am not sure.
It is hard to understand how important food is in Thailand. Even a rushed lunch location is an important decision. There is almost always a sauce, or three, available and often there is customization, do you want innards or not? Extra meat? The special version or regular? And then in places you can ask for all sorts of things. Some dishes always come with the same garni and/or condiments. A few dishes always come with clear broth.
But kwauytiyo is relatively simple except that I can never hang onto how to say it. You can order it without liquid, but it normally is with broth. You get to choose the kind of noodle in most places. Normaly you would get rice noodles. But even these come in three plain varieties, wide, small, and round, There are flat 2 inch square noodles served in other dishes. Then there are bha mii, a wheat noodle with egg, woon sen, a bean thread, and mama noodles, the instant ramen noodles.
Where I stay in Thailand there is a noodle cart permanently parked on the sidewalk by the bridge over the highway. These bridges are called floating spans. Anyhow this cart is only open nights. I suspect that the owners use it to suppliment income. They only serve the pig variety. In my opinion it is pretty plain, but makes a great 10pm snack.
The meat is usually inexpensive cuts sliced thing. In first quality beef soup there is usually some tendon. It helps make a great broth. There are often “fish balls” or other protein concoctions, usually round. There can be liver. Since it is not broiled, this is something I usually do not have a big problem with. A friend commiserates with me about liver, he says he would rather eat the oil filter. I can relate. If the dish is served in a fish variety it is usually with luuk chin pla, Thai gefilte fish.
I cannot speak to to the seafood version of kwautiyo I never order it. I seem to be the poster child for food poisoning from clams. I stay away.
Namtok, meaning I believe “waterfall” at least literally refers to adding blood to the broth. This makes it much richer. It is not always available. If you are European they might assume that you do not want it.
Once you get it on the table you have condiments to fix it up. There is Naam Pla Phrik or Fish sauce with peppers, usually there is some coarse grind of red pepper, sugar sometimes, salt, plain fish sauce and ground white pepper. Chopsticks and soupspoons are stored on the table in a long stainless box. After you add your customization you stir it by picking up some of the noodles breaking up the wad of them.
After a couple of hours of driving around we finally got to a chicken noodle place. It was on the route home which is good. They were great.
rice noodle ก๋วยเตี๋ยว Ǩwyteī̌yw
boat เรือ Reụ̄x
duck เป็ด Pĕd
fish sauce with pepper น้ำปลาพริก N̂ảplā phrik
fish balls ลูกชิ้นปลา Lūkchîn plā
waterfall น้ำตก N̂ảtk