Bangkok’s ‘Noodle Man’
When I am in Thailand there is one place I ALWAYS try to visit. As most people know who have had to the chance to visit Thailand, pretty much all of Thailand, especially Bangkok and some of the other larger cities, has a multitude of options when it comes to Street Food. Pork, beef, chicken, fish, noodles are all prepared in a variety of ways. However, one of my old-time favorites is to visit my old friend the ‘Noodle Man‘.
I have been visiting his Street Food stall since 2006. Even though time passes quickly in life, every time I return to Thailand and we see each other again he greets me with a hardy, warm welcome as if he sees me every day. In order to find his food stall you have to travel to THE MALL THAPRA in Thon Buri, Bangkok. When you get to THE MALL and once you enter on the first floor, you have to walk through THE MALL to the parking garage which is located through the doors at the back of the first floor. Keep walking straight through the garage and you will see a fence with a door opening to the rear alley. Turn left and while walking along this ‘street alley’, you will encounter an assortment of Street Food vendors preparing various selections of Street Food. Be aware of the motor scooters because they are frequently traveling along this same street alley and it can get quite busy with them competing with the foot traffic; mind your elbows and their mirrors. Also remember they follow the British rule of road travel which is opposite that of the U.S. and some other nations.
Along the way to the Noodle Man, on the right hand side, I have to stop and get my iced coffee from the ‘Coffee Couple’. This husband and wife team also greet me like an old friend. That’s one of the aspects I love about Thailand; the smiles and warmth of the people you meet, who always seem to remember you no matter how much time passes, even if neither party knows each others name.
At this coffee stand you can get cold drinks of all kinds. Traditionally, whether it’s cold soda, iced water, or iced coffee, the drink is prepared and served with ice in a plastic bag with a straw. You may have seen this is in the movie “HANG OVER II” when “Alan” was drinking an orange Fanta out of a plastic bag in Bangkok. This time, the Coffee Couple also had plastic cups. It’s the best tasting iced coffee I have had in Thailand. After the Coffee Couple you continue your journey down the street alley and roughly 100 feet / 30.5 meters on your right you will find the Noodle Mans Street Food stall. It’s situated next to a canal. Now, mind you, this canal is not flowing with crystal clear blue water. Unfortunately it has floating trash in it, is black in color, and can smell at times, but not all the time. They have beautified the area with large clay pots of tropical plants that spruce the area up.
Yet, the Noodle Mans stall is always busy serving the local workers and anyone else who may walk by. Keep in mind you have to get there by noon the latest because he usually sells out. When you get there, you may have noticed by now if you are not a Thai, this area is predominantly frequented by Thai people; foreigners are scarce. The Noodle Mans stall has several plastic tables and stools at his stall to include some tables on a walkway over the canal. Despite the black, slow flowing water, I prefer to sit there on the walkway away from the hustle and bustle of the foot and scooter traffic. If you sit here, be careful of anything you place on the table because if you knock it accidentally into the canal it’s gone. That’s unless you want to swim for it which I would not advise. Don’t be surprised if you have an open chair at your table because one of the locals may join you. It’s kind of communal seating.
Either the Noodle Man or one his employees come and take your order will take your order. You may have to wait a few minutes for a table because he gets pretty busy sometimes. The Noodle Man is the ‘maître d / cashier / waiter‘ and his wife the ‘Noodle Wife’ prepares the food.
Here’s the one tricky part; none of them speak English. I am lucky to be married to a Thai and she orders for me because my Thai speaking skills are still developing. You can go up to where they prepare the food and point out what type of noodles you want and what you want with them. What they prepare is a soup with noodles and greens with pork, chicken, or fish balls (NO, not those kind.. ) or a combination of all if you like All of the ingredients are served in a clear broth. Make sure to ask for extra fried garlic to add. It is pretty yummy and adds to the flavor. They also have a condiment holder with hot peppers sliced up which I believe might be in vinegar, crushed hot Thai pepper, and sugar if you like. I like mine extra spicy.
This noodle dish is also VERY inexpensive, if I remember right the price might be just over $1.00 U.S. per bowl. I usually eat two bowls and get stuffed, but its worth it to me. :-) One thing to mention is there is a community water cooler. It is at the end of the walkway near the stairs of the canal walkway. Stainless steel mugs are supplied and customers at the food stall, the over-heated motor bike taxi drivers, and passers-by alike will occasionally stop and get a drink; everyone sharing the same cups. I never got sick… :-)
The Bangkok Noodle Man is worth the visit based on his food quality and friendly service. It also gives you a chance to immerse yourself with the locals in the area. The Noodle Man and his wife will be looking for you! :-)