|Beef (left) and pork (right) Boat Noodles at Zen Yai Thai
To the noodles, sitting in the broth, are added slices of steak, meatballs, crushed peanuts, onion, pork cracklings, cilantro and what appeared to be boltonia. A tray of condiments is brought to your table th dress up your noodles as you will. (It thankfully includes chili paste.) In addition to beef, there is also a pork version and a tom yum version of the boat noodles, They are available in large bowls. but the practice is to order two or three small bowls of noodles to take advantage of different flavors. (In addition to the boat noodles, small bowls of tom yum and yen ta fo are available for $3.50.) I ordered small bowls of both beef and pork boat noodles, not knowing the serving size going in, but could have easily handled three as a comfortable lunch.
The boat noodles turned out to be exhilarating melanges of flavors and textures: sharp, sour, and slightly sweet broth, and crunchy, chewy, and soft add-ins. The venue is comfortable and casual, the service cheerful, and the opportunity to linger over two or three bowls of noodles, perhaps with some Thai BBQ or a cucumber salad in such an environment is little short of paradise. It's a little like dim sum for noodles, and that would be my idea of paradise.
Where slurped: Zen Yai Thai, 771 Ellis Street near Polk St., San Francisco