My Dad (who speaks Thai) loves to go to Thai Town every once in a while to pick up some goods. Like what you ask? Mango and rice desserts. Soong Tum (papaya salad). Newspapers. Crickets. No joke, he bought some frozen crickets as a beer snack. And those Thai karaoke laserdisc/dvd’s. Oh god. I come back every weekend to see the parents and I always find my dad singing to his favorite Thai and Laotian songs with a 6-pack of MGD’s. Ghetto I know. But that’s what makes my dad happy. Sometimes you might catch me at a karaoke bar singing 80s songs with a 6-pack of MGD’s too. Like father, like son.
One thing prevalent within each Asian culture is the simple, yet comforting bowl of soup noodles. Chinese and Nu Ro Mian. Cantonese and Wonton Mien. Vietnamese and Pho. Koreans and Neng Myeon. Japanese and ramen/udon. I’d keep going but I really don’t know what kind of soup noodles Cambodians, Malaysians and Indonesians eat. For sure they have something though.
Dad: “What do you want to eat?”
Me: “Do you have to ask? You know what I always want.”
Dad: “Soup noodles it is.”
I like anything with beef and when I go for Thai food, I know I’m getting the Thai Boat noodles (Kuai Teow Reua); even before glancing at the sticky ass menus. Mmmmm. This was first created by boat peddlers who’d paddle up to you for direct service. Kinda like room service I guess. The cook would have a boiling pot of goodness and hand you the bowl of noodles for a small charge. If the service was bad, you could simply paddle away. At least you could see what the cooks were doing to your food since you were so close. No ‘behind-closed-doors’ mischief going on.
The reason we picked this place was because of its blatant advertising. As we were driving by slowly, our eyes caught the huge framed photos of their noodles. We parked and I started salivating for the Thai Boat noodles. Once I walked in I found myself staring at 6-7 framed photos. I thought to myself, “Are we in the museum of noodles?” It seriously looked like a museum exhibit with the huge 5’ x 3’ framed photos of the soup noodles. All they needed were those little white cards from the MOCA or LACMA to describe what I was staring at. And maybe have an usher posted by the wall warning visitors to refrain from taking photos. *Being a foodblogger, I can shoot photos withoutt flash while holding the camera under my armpit.
We sat down and were quickly greeted by the owner and given sticky menus. I rested my elbows on the sticky tables and saw that ‘Hi-Thai Noodle’ had a ‘Three-bowls-for $10’ deal. Dope. Problem was, it was only my Dad and I. Should we get the $10 deal and bring the third bowl home? We both got the “Beef and Beef Ball” soup noodle with a salted crab papaya salad to start out with. What the waiter brought out shocked me.
It was the tiniest bowl of soup noodles I’d ever seen. No wonder they were three-for-$10. If you ordered one bowl, you wouldn’t be full. If you ordered two bowls, you’re paying $8 for a regular sized bowl of noodles. Good thing about Hi-Thai is that they have quite a variety of soup noodles – beef, pork stew and seafood. Looking up at gallery pieces, you got a pretty clear idea what you were going to order. No need to lean over at the other table and spy.
The Thai Boat noodles tasted pretty good. Thai boat noodles, unlike Chinese beef noodles, have a thicker consistency in the broth. You can actually see that it’s made with a lot of beef stock because of the cloudiness. That’s a good sign. The slices of beef and beef balls were also quite tender and flavorful.
Still hungry, my Dad and I went for round 2. This time I ordered a fishcake and pork ball dried soup noodle. It had peanuts, fried garlic, cilantro, green onions and a little oil, which you mixed up. I loved it. My dad got this pork stew with rolled up noodles – resembling mini scrolls. It was sweet and heavy on star anise.
The Soong Tum papaya salad with salted blue crab was very good as well. Made with a lot of lime and fish sauce, it had a real kick to it. Not sure if many people know this, but Laotians also have a papaya salad with salted blue crab called “Dama Hoong”. It’s the same as the Thai version but with less of a sweet and sour taste. I prefer the Laotian version. Total for 4 mini-bowls of soup noodles and papaya salad came out to $22 without tip.
This was only my second stop in my search for good Thai Boat noodles and I’m sure there are better. Hi-Thai is open 24/7 and is on the corner of Hollywood and Harvard in Thai Town.
“Hi” Thai Noodle
5229 Hollywood Blvd. (c/o Harvard in Thai Town)
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Posted by e d b m at 2:13 PM