Boat noodle is a Thai specialty that is … well, it’s not for the easily frightened. True boat noodle is deeply beefy, funky, with hard assaults of tang, sourness, spice, sweet, and good. You’ll see two forms of this: beef stew style, which is a nice soup, and boat noodle style. Boat noodle style gets its characteristic cloudy appearance and extrafunky flavor from its primary thickener, beef blood. But once you’ve had it funky, you can’t go back to the clean stuff. You’re dirty forever.
Boat noodle soup, if you can’t guess, is one of Your Editor Thi’s primo obessions. It’s kind of like sucking nectar directly from the mouth of the goddess of the Thai: Everything that’s great about Thai food—the intense, searing flavors; the constant balance between almost mind-shattering levels of spice, sour, sweet, and salt—it’s all there in its unfiltered form.
twocents has been on a serious Thai boat noodle jag. He’s eaten boat noodles everywhere he can find them. His three current favorites are:
Ruen Pair boat noodle soup. Medium spicy here is quite spicy. It’s good tanginess, and comes with sliced beef, stewed beef, beef ball, and sometimes tripe. $8.
Sa-Wooei beef stew soup. This includes beef ball, sliced beef, stewed beef, and tendony bits. The broth is noticeabley sweet. $5.25 at lunch—an excellent value.
Thai Noodle boat noodle soup. This has stewed beef in large slices, beef ball, and sliced beef.
These three places all serve superior soup, and you should try all of them.
Ruen Pair Authentic Thai Cuisine [East Bay]
1045 San Pablo Avenue, Albany
Sa-Wooei Thai Cuisine [East Bay]
10621 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito
Thai Noodle [East Bay]
1936 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
Board Links: Thai Beef/Boat Noodle in East Bay