Do you absolutely love noodles? If you do, you’d have a blast in Thailand because you can get to try so many different types of noodles. From sweet to savoury, as well as dry to soup noodles, you can find just about everything here – and they’re all sooo delicious!
The best part about the noodles in Thailand is that they’re quite easy to find. While some of them are sold by street vendors, some are a delicacy and can only be found in restaurants.
If you’re as much of a noodle fanatic as I am, I strongly urge you to try these unique varieties the next time you’re in Bangkok or other Thai cities!
15 pink-themed cafes to dine at in central Bangkok straight out of your girlhood dreams for the ultimate girls’ day out
14 Affordable luxury Bangkok hotels with romantic views and swimming pool to stay at under $120 near Pratunam & Sukhumvit
1. Mini bowls of traditional Thai noodles – Boat Noodles (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ)
Originating from when boats filled up Bangkok’s canals, these hearty brown noodles are sweet yet have a strong flavour – mainly due to its use of dark soy sauce, pig or cow blood and other spices.
Because of the mixture of blood in the dish (you can barely taste the metallic iron taste though), the soup is quite thick too. With the addition of meatballs and pieces of meat, it’s the perfect dish to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
However, you might have to buy several bowls since each portion is quite small, due to the fact that these noodles were originally sold on boats. As one person manned the boat – from rowing the boat to cooking and serving the dishes – having each bowl small made it easier for the seller to handle everything and prevent the noodles from spilling.
Even though boat noodles are no longer sold on boats, this habit still continues until now, so don’t be too surprised if you find yourself eating 5 bowls of noodles!
2. Your favourite Thai soup with noodles – Tom Yum Noodles (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวต้มยำ)
If you want to eat noodles that pack a punch, you must try Tom Yum noodles. It’s sour, spicy, salty and sweet – which makes it so flavourful that it’s a party on your tongue!
It’s also rather filling due to the noodles and various meats (e.g. shrimp, meatballs, etc). And if you prefer something creamier, I recommend getting the “Creamy Tom Yum” (a.k.a. Tom Yum Nam Khon), which has evaporated milk added in.
3. Sweet, pink noodles – Yentafo (เย็นตาโฟ)
Don’t let the colour put you off, because Yentafo is going to steal your hearts as soon as you’ve taken that first bite. The noodles taste both sweet and salty, due to the pink sauce (made of fermented bean curd, ketchup, sugar, garlic, etc) and savoury broth, and tastes even better if you add a dash of chilli. A great dish to eat when you’re feeling tired and want something fresh and sweet.
4. Must-try prawn noodles – Goong Ob Woon Sen (Shrimp Noodle Clay Pot) (กุ้งอบวุ้นเส้น)
Ready to upgrade your tastebuds?
What’s great about Goong Ob Woon Sen is that they use glass noodles as the main ingredient, allowing all the flavours from the spices to become thoroughly infused into the dish. It’s sweet and savoury because of the pork fat, shrimp and soy sauce, as well as a tad bit spicy thanks to the peppercorn. I highly recommend it!
5. The best curry noodles ever!! – Khanom Jeen Nam Ya (Fish Curry with Rice Vermicelli) (ขนมจีนนำ้ยา)
Although there are many variations of Khanom Jeen (rice noodles), one of the most popular takes is Khanom Jeen Nam Ya.
Nam Ya means fish curry, hence you’ll find thin, broken pieces of fish in an orange-coloured curry. It’s a bit spicy, but also extremely savoury and rich due to the use of coconut milk.
6. Thailand’s national noodles – Pad Thai (ผัดไทย)
Ask anyone what Thai noodles they know and most will answer “Pad Thai, man” – no surprise since they’re found almost everywhere in Thailand, so common that it’s also considered as a street food!
But did you ever wonder why this particular dish is so easy to find? That’s because this dish was created by former Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram in the 1930s to promote nationalism. At the same time, there was a rice shortage due to floods and wars, thus rice noodles were used instead of rice in order to boost the country’s consumption of noodles.
These lightly orange-coloured flat noodles are sweet and salty, as well as nutty and crunchy because of the peanuts and bean sprouts. It’s also super flavoursome, with the addition of tofu, egg and prawns (or chicken, or both😉).
7. Crispy and wet noodles in a curry soup – Khao Soi (ข้าวซอย)
This is one dish where I can always see the bottom of my bowl. That’s because the broth is rich and fragrant – very addictive mainly due to the perfect balance of coconut milk, chili and lime, it’s a real umami explosion. The juicy meat (usually chicken or beef) also complements the noodles and soup very well, whereas the addition of crispy and wet egg noodles makes this a very filling meal.
But did you know that this dish is influenced by the Yunnanese (Chin Haw) people that migrated to Thailand (mostly Northern Thailand), Myanmar and Laos? Hence, you can commonly find this dish served in these three regions.
8. Glass noodles have never been this delicious – Thai Sukiyaki (สุกี้)
Available in two versions – soup or dry – I love how this dish feels quite light to the belly, due to their use of the glass noodle. It feels healthy too as they use a lot of vegetables (Chinese cabbage and morning glory) and meat in the dish. And with the addition of sweet Suki Sauce and salty Oyster sauce mixed in, this dish is easily a local’s favourite.
9. Sweet chicken noodles – Kuay Teow Gai (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวไก่)
If chicken is your bae, you’ll love this one. This simple, rich brown and sweet soup also comes with enough meat (and don’t forget chicken feet), so it’ll fill you up. For more oomph, you can also add eggs, bittergourd, fresh bean sprouts, green onions and blood to your dish – just ask! 😋
10. Spicy stir-fried noodles – Pad Kee Mao (a.k.a Drunken Noodles) (ผัดขี้เมา)
Don’t confuse this with any old regular stir-fry, because you’ll be in for a shock. Pad Kee Mao is much spicier (it is believed that originally the dish was so spicy it made its eaters drunk from the spice level) and meatier, with ground chicken/pork and tons of vegetables, such as baby corn, Thai basil and long beans. The noodles are super savoury too due to three golden sauces – oyster, fish and soy.
11. Thailand’s char kuay teow – Pad See Ew (ผัดซีอิ๊ว)
Nope, this isn’t Char Kway Teow (though it sure looks like its counterpart in Singapore or Malaysia!). In fact, Pad See Ew tastes quite different from Char Kway Teow! Thailand’s version is much sweeter and doesn’t really have a smoky/burnt taste. It’s usually cooked with kailan, egg and meat (e.g. chicken, pork, seafood, etc).
12. Rolled noodle soup – Kuay Jab (ก๋วยจั๊บ)
Similar to Kuay Teow Gai, the soup is sweet and brown from using a not-so-shy amount of soy sauce. But that’s where the similarities end because Kuay Jab is in fact pork-based. Thus, you’ll find pork being used instead of chicken. There’s also fried tofu in the dish (the tofu will soak up all the broth so be careful of it squirting out😜), while the rice noodles are rolled up, making this dish fun to eat.
13. Gravy on noodles – Rad Na (ราดหน้า)
It’s a fact that gravy is delicious, so it’s not surprising that gravy on noodles works well! The noodles used here are wide rice noodles, or rice vermicelli (or sometimes even crispy noodles), which complements well the flavourful, savoury gravy. The pork cooked in the sauce is soft, while the greens are crunchy (the perfect balance of textures).
Tip: Add a dash of vinegar or other Thai condiments for a spicy/sour/sweeter kick.
14. Simple stir-fry noodles – Kuay Teow Kua Gai (Stir-fried Chicken Noodles) (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวคั่วไก่)
Not a fan of too much spice? Then you’ll probably enjoy this dish. Although it’s stir-fried like Pad See Ew, this dish is on the saltier side and not as flavourful as many of the others introduced here (you can only taste salt and soy sauce as it is not served with sweet soy sauce).
Hence, it’s recommended to eat this with some chilli for a more complete flavour. The dish is pretty simple – consisting of egg, chicken and a pinch of green onions.
15. You can find this EVERYWHERE – Ba Mee Haeng/Nam (บะหมี่แห้ง/น้ำ)
Other than Pad Thai, Thailand’s next most popular noodle dish (that you can find practically everywhere) has got to be Ba Mee Haeng/Nam, which literally means ‘dry/soup noodles’. Sold by noodle carts or stalls, this type of dish tends to lean on the savoury side (due to the fish sauce, garlic oil, pork, etc).
If you order Ba Mee Haeng (dry noodles) from a duck noodle store, you’ll also find your noodles topped with sauce. Mmmm…
Note: The biggest difference between Ba Mee Haeng and Ba Mee Nam is whether the actual soup is poured into the main bowl or in a separate (and smaller) bowl with the garlic oil.
1. Depending on what noodle dish you’re eating, you can usually choose the type of noodles that you want. The five most common noodles available are egg noodles (Ba Mee / บะหมี่), instant noodles (Mama / มาม่า), wide flat noodles (Sen Yai / เส้นใหญ่), small rice noodles (Sen Lek / เส้นเล็ก) and rice vermicelli (Sen Mee / เส้นหมี่).
2. You can adjust the spice when ordering. For example,
If you don’t want your noodles to be spicy, say “Mai Ao Phed” (ไม่เอาเผ็ด)
If you want your noodles to be a little bit spicy, say “Phed Noi” (เผ็ดน้อย)
If you want your noodles very spicy, say “Phed Mak” (เผ็ดมาก)