Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kuaytiaw Sukhothai At Amphawa Thai: The Best Thai Noodle Dish You've Never Heard Of?

Itching for a new noodle thrill, I contemplated heading for Amphawa Thai Noodle House on Geary Boulevard for khao soi, having heard good reports on their version.  While perusing an online menu, however, another noodle soup item which I'd never heard of before caught my eye, Sukhothai Noodle Soup, described as "hot & spicy noodle soup with roasted pork, ground pork, fish balls, green beans, cabbage and peanuts."  A little online research uncovered a couple of interesting things about this dish: for one, a CNN Travel post pegged Kuaytiaw Sukhothai (i.e. Sukhothai Noodles) "the best Thai dish you've never heard of." Secondly, as far as I could determine, Amphawa Thai is the only restaurant in San Francisco serving this dish, at least under that name.  Bingo! My lunch plan was made.

Amphawa Thai Noodle House, which I'd so often passed on the #38 Bus, is as tidy as it is tiny inside. It has the appearance of a family-run restaurant (by a family with pride in its product) and serves family-style Thai meals. It was about half full at 1:15 on a Wednesday, and I was seated at a cozy corner two-top and promptly served.

Amphawa is named for a district of Thailand on the Bay of Bengal, not far from Bangkok. Sukhothai noodles are named for an ancient inland city in Thailand*, but popular in the Bangkok vicinity, according to the CNN post.  I placed my order for the noodles, a roti with a peanut dip, and a Thai iced tea.  My pleasant server asked me what type of noodles I wanted. "Whatever is traditional for the dish," I replied.  (I had already read that in Thailand it was always made with sen lek, Thai rice stick noodles, and happily that was what I ended up with.)  She also asked me how spicy I wanted it.

"Very spicy," I said.

"Are you sure?" she said.


I am happy to report that if you ask for spicy at Amphawa Thai you will get spicy. When my bowl came, the broth was glorious spicy and gloriously tart at the same time, with only a soupçon of palm sugar sweetness, something like an X-treme tom yum broth  The thin rice noodles started out slightly hard, and remained chewy enough while I worked my way to the bottom of the bowl. The toppings included barbecued pork slices, pork pate slices, a copious amount of ground pork and fish balls. There was probably as much protein in the dish as in any other bowl of noodles I have blogged about here. On the veggie side, in addition to thinly sliced green beans and chopped peanuts (shades of Guilin mifen), was what appeared to be fried or pickled garlic, chewy white strips of what might have been pickled daikon (or not), cilantro, chili paste and lots of ground chili.

The server came came to refill my glass of ice water just as I was reaching the bottom of my bowl. "Oh," she exclaimed "you can eat spicy!" I am from Mars, apparently.

I'll have to add that there was nothing special about the roti, which was a bit on the oily side and oddly overpriced at $6.50 for a small portion.  As for my $8.95 bowl of Sukhothai noodles, however, it is in strong contention for a spot on my not yet existent "10 Best SF Noodle Dishes" list.

Where slurped: Amphawa Thai Noodle House, 5020 Geary Boulevard, between 14th and 15th Avenues.

*I came across an interesting post by Thai blogger Natayada on Sukhothai noodles and his quest for an authentic version in the city of Sukhothai. Unable to find them in that city at all, he developed a theory that the dish may have been created at Sukhothai Palace in a district of Bangkok known as Sukhothai. He also highlights the differences between Sukhothai noodles and Tom Yum, whic also has a spicy-sour-sweet broth.

1 comment:

  1. Tried this the other day. Definitely spicy. Enjoyed the sour notes as well. Gonna hit up some others on your top ten list. Cheers!


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