If you happen to drop by the Victory Monument for any reason, do not miss out the boat noodles. It is a Bangkok experience worth checking out.
Hot, sweaty, and packed with local students slurping their way through bowl after bowl of noodles, Victory Monument is the place to come to sample Bangkok’s famous ‘boat noodles’, a once popular form of fast-food-on-water which has since moved onto dry land. The restaurants serving up these delicious, miniature bowls of noodles can be found hugging the edge of the main klong (canal) just north of the huge roundabout intersection.
Despite technically enjoying a ‘waterside location’, Boat Noodle Alley is not exactly the most glamourous of places to eat in Bangkok. Firstly, the canal, just metres away from your tables, is rather murky and polluted… authentic! The brutal slabs of concrete supporting the twisting Skytrain and overhead highway don’t really add much to the views either. Probably not the best option if you’re trying to impress on a first date, but good for the more adventurous who put taste before setting. If it all sounds a bit too much, there are plenty of indoor, air-conditioned rooms along the alleyway – although for some reason sitting by that smelly klong kind of adds something the experience.
The concept of boat noodles
The concept of boat noodles, known in Thai as guay diow rua, is simple: bite-sized portions of either rice (sen lek) or yellow egg noodles (ba mee) with meat or tom yam soup are served up in equally tiny bowls. You can choose between beef, pork or fish balls and with of meat, which is all topped off with a few fresh herbs. Seasoning like dried chilli and fish sauce can be added for extra flavour. The curiously small size of each bowl really is the unique selling point of boat noodle alley. As a result, it’s common to see locals order dozens of bowls at a time (they cost between 10-12 baht each), which are then stacked high on the tables making for an all-important photo op before departure. For those who manage to sink 10 bowls of the noodles, a trophy is awarded in the form of a free bottle of Pepsi.
Our favourite broth is nam tok, a name that means “waterfall” and refers to a cooking method in which the juices from roasting beef or pork drips gradually into a simmering broth. We suggest starting with this rich and savoury soup before moving on to a bowl with tom yum, a lighter and slightly sour broth usually served with pork. Do leave room for one of the mini-cups of coconut custard that always sits on the tables ready to eat.
Most guay diow vendors in Bangkok now serve bigger portions sufficient for a whole meal. Boat Noodle Alley carries on the age-old tradition of serving bite-sized servings – a practice that helped prevent noodle spillage while trying to dine on the bumpy canal waters. To find boat noodle alley, your best bet is to take the BTS to Victory Monument (Anusawari). Follow the long, elevated skywalk north over the roundabout, take the steps down as soon as you pass over the canal and the row of restaurants on the right-hand side should be easy to find.
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