I noticed only recently that I rarely write about Samui; if I do write about an island, it is usually Phuket. It’s true, I am partial to Phuket, I am playing favorites. And for whatever reason, I don’t get the chance to go to Samui that often unless it’s for yoga. In the interest of turning over a new leaf for the new year, I’m giving some love to Samui.
It’s also true that I don’t write that often about boat noodles. It’s easy enough to explain that one: I’d rather be having other types of noodles. But while in Samui on a family holiday — where I overindulged in champagne and freaked out in a French restaurant — my father really wanted to have boat noodles, and these boat noodles in particular. Being a busybody as usual, I asked hotel staff if the place that my father wanted to go to was legit.
“Oh boat noodles? You must be going to Khun Paw on Chaweng,” they said, and they were right, although I’m sure it’s not the only boat noodle place on the island. The fact is, if you’re from Samui, Guaythiew Ruea Khun Paw (“Dad’s Boat Noodles”) is famous, and everyone knows about it.
Now, boat noodles have a great mythology around them about having been invented and sold on the boats that plied the waterways way back when. They come in pork and/or beef versions, with a smattering of organ meats and maybe a handful of Thai basil to go with the broth, which is thickened with cow’s or pig’s blood. Despite the bloodthirsty description, it’s actually quite a sweet dish, with notes of cinnamon and star anise in the soup. And in spite of its association with Thai canals, in a lot of ways, this dish is a lot more Chinese than Thai.
Bad boat noodles, though, are really bad. They smell and/or they are overly sweet. At Guaythiew Ruea Khun Paw (Chaweng Beach, 086-408-2281), they do not fall into these terrible traps. Instead, these noodles are deliciously meaty, laden with scrumptious liver slices in a fragrant broth with just a hint of sweetness. Long story short: I was supposed to be pescatarian this month. I ended up eating the pork version of these noodles, and inhaled 10 (!) enormous sticks of grilled pork meatballs slathered in a sweet chili sauce to boot.
Did I regret my rash actions? Not at all! I did, however, end up having an existential crisis at a French restaurant later that evening when I discovered that there was nothing that I wanted to order on the menu. What am I? Why am I?
But that is a story for another day. In the interest of the new year, I will choose to dwell on the sunny side of the street: these boat noodles.