[Ben sez]: We ate Asia. Ok, not all of it, but we ate a lot of it, and somewhere in there we were hoping to find the best bowl of noodles. The jury is still out on whether or not we found the best bowl of noodles on Earth (or even in Asia) but we're going to count down the top five delightfully delicious bowls of noodles from our trip over the next few blogs.
Noodle #5 - Pork noodle soup on the banks of the Mekong River in Vientiane, Laos - We rolled into Vientiane after 24 hours on a bus (19 of which they had the air-conditioning turned off for) and settled into our hotel. On our second night in town we wandered past a restaurant advertising their Duck Noodle Soup. We tried this, then we went back for breakfast the next day and tried the Pork Noodle Soup. The woman here was slinging some deeply porky broth - a balance of pork flavor, soy, fish sauce, and hints of garlic and ginger. Throw in a condiment selection of limes, fish sauce, and chilies and you've got the makings for a deliciously meaty bowl of soup with your choice of fresh egg noodles or rice noodles. Somewhat of a middle ground between Chinese and Vietnamese soups.
Noodle #4 - Pad Thai outside BTS Station Saphan Kwai - We spent a lot of time in Thailand - somewhere around a month in total. Invariably we were going to eat a little bit of Pad Thai. We would have eaten a lot of Pad Thai but the portions in Thailand are so reasonable (that means "small" for all the Americans out there) that you don't end up eating massive quantities of anything.
We tried probably twenty different Pad Thai street stands in Thailand and only on our last night in Bangkok before going to Cambodia did we stumble across a great man standing at a griddle dishing out large (Thai) portions of awesome Pad Thai for 25 baht (about 75 cents). This man embodies everything right about the street vendor system, he makes one dish - with optional shrimp for 10 baht more - and makes it really well. All of the Thai restaurants in the United States that are slinging huge plates of bland noodles should take some notes from this man, pare down their menus and learn how to do it right. He has his pre-mixed sauce in leftover Aquafina bottles which he pours over the noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts to create this quintessentially Thai dish.
I'm sure you're tired of hearing it, but it's all about balance, in the US Pad Thai always seems overly sweet, served with a wedge of lemon to make it even brighter. In Thailand they focus on a healthy amount of shrimp or fish sauce and tamarind paste to balance out that sweetness with some salty, sour, tangy goodness.
I haven't quite figured out why so much of the Pad Thai in Thailand is pink colored, but I heard that pink is in style this year, so I'm not concerned.
[Nate sez]: I think they mix the blood of virgins into the sauce, but that's just a rumor as to why it's so delicious.
This has been a succinct wrap-up of the first two of our top fives bowls of noodles in Asia. Nate's too busy "taking care of business" to blog right now but I'm sure he'll have some epic treatises about the top 3 bowls of noodles in the coming weeks to make up for it. Join us next week for the second installation of our continuing noodle countdown - Same Ben et Nate time, same Ben et Nate channel.