Review: Thai Boat Noodles

One key difference between THAI BOAT NOODLES and other mee? They’re usually served in small bowls and finished in two gulps. Cute or cumbersome (when you end up ordering a dozen)? Our writer and — his Thai foodie friend — check out four joints that recently sailed into town.

BaaMee Bangkok
BaaMee Bangkok
06 Apr 2015

BaaMee Bangkok

What are Thai boat noodles (“kuay teow rua”)? This humble dish is traditionally served in small bowls (out of convenience and necessity) by hawkers that used to ply Thailand’s canals in small boats. The earthy kway teow soup, usually a concoction of pork broth thickened with the all-important pig’s or cow’s blood (recipes vary) and topped with ingredients like meat balls and lard, is now commonly found at street stalls in Thailand. In Singapore, Thai boat noodle joints have had to rely on other flavouring agents because the key ingredient — animal blood — isn’t AVA-approved here.

(Pictured above) 45 SYED ALWI RD, S207636, TEL: 9636-0048.
Open daily 11am – 9pm. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/BaaMeeBKK

WHAT: This Thai-style wanton mee stall which opened last November in a Jalan Besar kopitiam recently added Thai boat noodles to its menu. Instead of skinny kway teow though, it uses its own made-in-Singapore mee kia-type noodles. It’s essentially a scaled-down serving of its BaaMee (which means “wanton mee” in Thai), which, unfortunately, isn’t very good.

BaaMee Bangkok
BaaMee Bangkok
06 Apr 2015

BaaMee Bangkok

THE NOODLES: Each side dish-sized bowl of Boat Noodles costs just $1.20. You’ll need about five of these to make it a meal. While the noodles are springy, the flavours are wanting. Our noodles are served neither wet nor dry. They just sit rather sadly in a pool of bland dark sauce. The fried pork lard isn’t fragrant enough and the homemade pork slices, marinated in palm sugar, are criminally dry. Instead of wantons, we get one deep-fried pork ball stuffed with chye poh. We give them points for effort, but this, too, lacked punch. Even tweaking the flavours with assorted Thai condiments couldn’t save this bowl of noodles. We’re told the menu was created in consultation with a Thai “food designer”, but it seems a lot was lost between conception and execution.

OUR THAI FRIEND SAYS: “Tastes nothing like anything I’ve eaten in Thailand.”

WE SAY: Disappointing, especially with a signboard that proclaims it’s the "Thai No. 1 Wanton Noodles and Pig Trotters".

Noodle Café
Noodle Café
06 Apr 2015

Noodle Café

#B1-08 GOLDEN MILE COMPLEX, S199588. TEL: 8666-6675
Open daily noon – 9pm. Last orders 8.30pm. www.facebook.com/noodlecafesg

WHAT: This six-month-old 30-seater at Golden Mile is always packed, and for good reason. Its Pork and Beef Thai Boat Noodles are to die for. There’s plenty of flavour packed in each tiny bowl (you can also get the upsized $5 version if you want a proper meal).

Noodle Café
Noodle Café
06 Apr 2015

Noodle Café

Pictured above: (L) Beef Thai Boat Noodle (R) Pork Thai Boat Noodle; Order five $1.90 bowls for a really satisfying meal.

THE NOODLES: Pick from five types of imported Thai noodles and seven toppings like braised beef or pork (our fave!), pork liver and meatballs. You can also choose how spicy you like your noodles. ‘Normal’ is plenty hot. We recommend starting with ‘less spicy’. Each bowl of Pork or Beef Thai Boat Noodles ($1.90) comes with Thai morning glory and slightly too greasy fried lard. To make up for the lack of pig’s blood, the Thai chefs, relatives of the Singaporean boss’ Thai wife, add more pork bones to the stock. The thick, earthy, soy-based broth tastes like a more watery but still intensely flavoured beef noodle gravy. It’s also less herbal than the real thing, but no less yummy.

OUR THAI FRIEND SAYS: “This is the closest to what you’ll find in Thailand. It’s impressive how they managed to get the consistency of the broth right without pig’s blood. The chilli is also very authentic.

WE SAY: Yay! There’s no need to hop on a plane for an authentic taste of boat noodles anymore.  

Thai Boat Noodles
Thai Boat Noodles
06 Apr 2015

Thai Boat Noodles

#02/32799 BEDOK POINT, NEW CHANGI RD, S467351. TEL: 6445-9932.
Open daily. Weekdays 11.30am - 10pm; weekends 10.30am - 10pm. Last orders 9.30pm. www.facebook.com/boatnoodlesg

WHAT: What can $1 buy you these days? A small bite (or three, to be precise) of Thailand at this recently rebranded Bedok Point eatery formerly known as Khun Mee Thai. Focusing on pork-only boat noodles now (it used to sell Thai-style wanton mee), the Thai lady boss, who tells us she sells 500 bowls of boat noodles daily, takes pride in delivering authentic flavours with specially-imported Thai ingredients prepared by her Thai kitchen crew.

Thai Boat Noodles
Thai Boat Noodles
06 Apr 2015

Thai Boat Noodles

THE NOODLES: There are four varieties served in petite $1 bowls. To get around the animal blood ban, the boss says her Mini Boat Noodle Dry/Soup is prepared with “secret ingredients”. While tasty, we find it still lacks the robust flavours of the real deal. We much prefer the dry version, especially when you add some fiery homemade fried chilli paste, extra chopped peanuts, fried lard (extra $2 a bowl) and crispy crackling (extra $4.80 a plate). Served with bean sprouts and Thai morning glory, the tiny wad of noodles imported from Thailand has a nice bite to them (you can literally wolf down each tiny portion of the noodles itself in one gulp), and the smooth and chewy pork balls are just like those we’ve tried in Thailand. Skip the bland Tom Yum noodles.

Thai Boat Noodles
Thai Boat Noodles
06 Apr 2015

Thai Boat Noodles

OUR THAI FRIEND SAYS: “While its flavours and authentic portion size may stand out among other boat noodle offerings in Singapore, taste-wise, it still can’t compete with even the average street stall in Thailand.”

WE SAY: A pretty good introduction to boat noodles if you’ve never tried the real deal before.
 

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
06 Apr 2015

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee

#01-43 KITCHENER COMPLEX, 809 FRENCH RD, S200809. Open daily 10am – 10pm.
Last orders 9.30pm. www.porns.com.sg/www.facebook.com/www.pornsexythaifood

WHAT: Pornsak's fifth and largest Thai eatery to date is a brightly-lit, fuss-free diner that specialises in an interpreted version of Thai boat noodles. Which essentially just means a variety of Thai-style noodles. “There’s no way to be 100 per cent authentic without pig’s blood!” he admits. The bubbly TV host did try sticking to tradition with smaller $1.90 portions initially, but gave up after a week. “Customers complained about not being full,” he grouses. “The point of small portions is to have variety, but most people just wanted to fill up and go. So I switched to normal serving sizes.” Situated on the ground floor of the relatively new Kitchener Complex, Porn’s month-old self-service diner, which looks like a prettier fast food joint, lets customers mix and match seven soup bases and five types of organic noodles imported from Thailand. The menu is created (but not cooked on a daily basis) by Porn’s executive chef who was formerly the personal chef of Brangelina during their time in Thailand.

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
06 Apr 2015

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee

THE NOODLES: In addition to perennial faves like tom yum, there’s also the street fave of Suki Chicken Noodle Soup ($6.50), with a raw egg beaten in to thicken the broth, and Yen Ta Fo Noodle Soup ($6.50), a sweet-and-sour dish stained pink by Thai fermented soybean paste, served with fish balls, cuttlefish and fried tofu. The Thai Duck Noodles ($6.50) features a moreish sweet and salty “50-year-old master stock”, which Porn lugged home from his aunt’s Thai restaurant in Thailand. It’s best eaten with the springy mee kia-like yellow egg noodles, and quickly. They clump up fast. Each day, two whole ducks are doused in this brew to flavour it. It was good during our hosted tasting but too sweet when our colleague visited on a separate occasion.

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
Porn's Thai Boat Noodee
06 Apr 2015

Porn's Thai Boat Noodee

OUR THAI FRIEND SAYS: “Authentic. Especially the Yen Ta Fo, which really takes me back to the streets of Thailand.”

WE SAY: We’re not crazy about eating out of disposable (pink) bowls and the ingredients could’ve been a bit more generous given the price. But it’s pretty decent otherwise.

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