I’d heard about an alley of restaurants in Bangkok serving mini-portions of noodles, and I was excited. But that’s really my default setting when it comes to eating in Thailand, so I was actually extra excited plus. The restaurants line a small canal not far from Victory Monument BTS station, which is handy for some bonus accidental sightseeing. And they serve boat noodles, amongst other things, so called as they used to be served from boats plying the canals. A few twists of noodle, a sprinkle of greenery (snipped up water spinach and herbs), some meat and a spiced broth enriched with pigs blood.
The noodles are available in small (10 baht ~$0.30AU) or large (35-40 baht), but go with the small, which provides freedom for the strong and pungent, in a way that can be overwhelming with large portions. Every diner has their own style,and some even order a couple of small bowls of the same dish and dump them all in the one bowl before seasoning and eating instead of opting for the large size. On my few visits here, I’ve managed to try four of the restaurants in this little strip, ordering widely from their picture menus.
Here’s how it works. You pick a variety of noodle (wheat, egg, glass, thin or thick rice), then a method of preparation and a meat. These last two vary as you progress down the alley and each place has about 5 preparations, but all serve boat noodles, the one with the spiced blood soup, and florid pink fermented beancurd broth – yen ta fo. Most serve a dry spicy noodle, and some have a tom yum soup version. Also on the menu are crisped pigs skin and deep fried wonton wrappers. All tasty and so affordable it seems a shame not to try.
Tradition dictates a particular noodle for each preparation, but the lack of phonetic descriptions messes with my carefully prepared food phrases and I end up randomly picking and choosing. I don’t maths well, but five types of noodles, five preparations and a few meats (beef, pork, braised beef, a range of balls), means many potential combinations – certainly more than all but seasoned eating competition winners could down in one sitting.
The first place you come to – Pranakorn Noodle Restaurant – served up this sad looking boat noodle. It tasted fine, pleasantly musty with dried spices and not at all bloody, but there is something to be said for presentation and extras. The big plus of this joint is a very fine, almost savoury steamed coconut and pandan custard. These little cups are sitting on the table, I dare you to stop at just one. Also, this is the only place where you can sit by the canal. Although it’s filthy, you might, as we did, spot a couple of enormous water monitors tussling.
The other places have the benefit of air conditioning and generally friendlier service, tastier food (first two pictures), and larger menus. For me, the joy of eating here lies in the portion sizes. Small bites that are the antithesis of a hulking carb-heavy bowl of pho. Where a handful of servings adds up to just a light lunch and you can enjoy a cacophony of flavours and without being overburdened in the stomach or the wallet. Plus, it’s fun, even if you don’t spot the huge water lizards fighting.
Boat Noodle Alley
Google map location
Very easy to find. Exit Victory monument BTS station to the north (check the maps in the station). Follow the raised walkway. Continue following the walkway halfway around the Victory monument, take the easy right before the walkway crosses the main road. You’ll cross over a canal. Go down the stairs and chuck a u-turn. Take the next left, and you’ll see the alley and and the restaurants.
Open 11am – 9pm