Traditionally sold by boat vendors that floated along Bangkok’s canals and rivers, hence the name, these noodles are often bought rather than made at home due to the many different elements that go into the dish. This month, we revive one of our favourite Feast features and breakdown the parts of this complex Thai dish.
In addition to common Asian stock ingredients such as lemongrass, coriander, galangal, star anise, soy, sugar and bones, the secret ingredient in this soup is blood – in this case, cow’s blood, but pig’s blood is also used. It’s often added to thicken and enrich Thai broths. Don’t let it put you off, this soup is all the better for it.
Meatballs and meat
Smooth meatballs are a ubiquitous addition to Asian soups. The type of meat varies – beef and pork are common – but they all share a similar bouncy texture, a result of the seasoned minced meat being pounded to a paste. A variety of other meats (pork or beef, depending on what you’ve ordered) are also added. A cut of meat ideal for slow cooking is simmered with the broth until tender, and we’ve also added some thin slices of rare flank steak. Various cuts of offal sometimes also lurk beneath the surface of the broth.
There’s often a choice of noodles in this dish, but flat or thin rice noodles are most common. Silky and slippery, they are blanched, divided into bowls and the broth is then poured over the top, allowing the noodles to soak up the robust flavours. They’re available at most supermarkets dried, but if you want them fresh, like we’ve used here, you'll need to head to Asian food shops.
Condiments and extras
Here, we’ve opted for coriander leaves, fried garlic, garlic oil, and pickled chillies. Other commonly added ingredients include blanched Asian greens, spring onions and sometimes bean sprouts. In the pork version, crispy pieces of pork crackling are used to add crunch, and toasted chilli powder, fish sauce and sugar are on hand to season to your liking.
As seen in Feast magazine, October 2014, Issue 36.