It’s on. Stress has taken hold, and I am feeling overwhelmed. As deadlines loom and previously-unforeseen hitches suddenly rear their little heads, I find myself reacting in strange ways. Please don’t be alarmed. If you see me staring at you, I am not contemplating you for dinner. I don’t see you at all. If you are foolish enough to say something to me, do not be startled if I spout even more rubbish than usual. I am trying to work something out.
In my present state, I have discovered some people enjoy my company more than usual. These are twisted and strange people. They are also food lovers. Because, in an attempt to keep from creeping as many people out as I usually do, I have retreated to the kitchen, where I can be as weird as I want and as brave as I like. It’s all OK, you see. My inevitable failures here won’t be as heartbreaking. And the results, as pitiful as they are, can be shared by everyone.
Today, I am attempting to replicate one of my favorite comfort foods, the bamee kai (egg noodles with, um, egg) from Bamee Slow, officially referred to as “Bamee Giew Moo Song Krueang” (open after 8pm at the entrance to Ekamai soi 19). Diners who like these noodles enough to queue up for them — and Thais have a hard time lining up for anything — affectionately call this place “Bamee Slow” because the khun lung (old “uncle”) manning the stall makes every bowl one by one, and it can take up to half an hour to get your order (for the record, the longest I have waited is 22 minutes). He has since stepped back from the soup vat and his daughter has taken over, and I am told she is a bit faster. But their noodles are as popular as ever.
What I love are the al dente, silky noodles, coated with the unctuous yellow yolk that eventually spills out of every unlucky egg plonked into each bowl. Slices of red pork, sturdy bits of Chinese kale, crumbled minced pork bits: none are immune from the reach of the yolk. This is what I am trying to capture, in my own small way.
Before starting, you need to make sure you have a big enough strainer that will hold all your noodles while ensuring that all the starch washes away, so that your egg noodles are not a smooshed-up Jack Sparrow-like bird’s nest, rendering your entire bowl a sad mess like the remnants of my career. Also, like the people at Bamee Slow, you should make up each bowl one-by-one: it really does make for better noodles.
I boiled a handful of pork soup bones in water with some garlic and white peppercorns for an hour, skimming periodically, and then flavored the broth with soy sauce and roasted chili paste (the ingredient that I think lends the toxic orange color to Bamee Slow’s broth). However, if you don’t have the time or inclination for this, pan-fry some minced pork with or without pork soup bones first, then cover with water and boil for a few minutes before starting. Or, simply get a couple of pork bouillon cubes into some hot water and proceed without delay. It’s all up to you.
Bamee Slow’s egg noodles (makes 2 servings)
– 200 g pork soup bones
– 500 ml water
-2 garlic cloves
– 5-10 white peppercorns, depending on how peppery you like it
– 1 tsp nam prik pow (roasted chili paste)
– 1 tsp salt
– 3 Tbs soy sauce
– 200 g minced pork
– 200 g fresh egg noodles
– 4 stalks Chinese broccoli or kale
– 2 eggs, soft-boiled (boiled for 3-4 minutes), cooled in an ice bath, and peeled
– Sugar, chili powder, fish sauce, white vinegar (for garnish)
1. Boil first four ingredients for an hour, skimming periodically.
2. Season with soy sauce, salt, roasted chili paste and more white pepper. Adjust to your taste.
3. Add minced pork and allow to boil for a few minutes until pork is cooked, skimming scum off of surface.
4. Add your greens.
5. Place half of your noodles in a strainer and immerse in the broth, skimming more off the surface if needed. Wait 2-3 minutes for noodles to “cook” and lose their starch.
6. Place in a bowl and ladle broth with minced pork (but without pork bones) over the noodles. Garnish with egg and greens and, if you have it, a few slices of Chinese-style barbecued red pork.
7. Serve alongside sugar, chili powder, fish sauce, white vinegar (with or without sliced or smashed chilies) and ground peanuts, if you like.