Floating market noodles

Kuai" tiao" luuk" chin" plaa

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

Smalt narrow boats, fitted out like mini soup kitchens, work the khlongs (waterways), dishing up soupy-noodle variations on a theme. Subtract ingredients you can’t get and add those you have - it’s one of those flexible jobs. Shredded cooked chicken, beef or pork, or boiled quails’ eggs, can be substituted for fish balls or prawns. Remember, Thai soups are all about balance and play. So think: soft and crisp, sharp and sweet, hot and bland, and all making an appearance together. Prawns are to be eaten in the shell here.


  • 400 g firm, white skinned fish fillet (conger eel, monkfish fillet etc.)
  • salt
  • fish sauce
  • 1 free-range egg white
  • 12 small shell-on tiger prawns, heads discarded
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground dried shrimp (grind in a spice mill)
  • 1.5 litres Asian chicken stock
  • 200 g rice noodles, any sort
  • 2 handfuls beansprouts
  • 2 pieces dried white fungus, soaked in water until soft, torn into chunks (optional)
  • 2 handfuls chopped greens, such as Chinese broccoli, choi-sum or spinach
  • 2 tbsp each of crispy fried shallots and toasted crushed peanuts
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar mixed with 3 sliced red chillies


Put the fish, plus a sprinkling of salt, 2 tsp fish sauce and the egg white into a processor and pulse-process to a paste. Would the paste into walnut-sized ball shapes, put on a plate, cover and chill to firm up. Cook them in gently bubbling water for about 3 minutes, then drain. In a heavy all-metal pan, fry the prawns in the oil for about 1 minute. Then stir through 1 tbsp fish sauce and the sugar, and cook until caramelized and sticky. Dry them a little in a low warm oven until brittle, then toss them with the ground dried shrimp.

When ready to serve, bring the stock to a gentle bubble and another pan of water to the boil. Cook the noodles in the water pan, according to the packet’s instructions, then scoop out with a sieve and distribute between four bowls. Put the beansprouts, fungus (if using) and greens in the sieve and dunk into the hot water for about 1 minute, then drain and divide between the bowls. Ladle over the hot stock and fish balls. Scatter with the sticky crisp prawns toasted crushed peanuts and crispy shallots, and alongside serve the chilli rice vinegar, some fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce or ground chilli, for all to pick, choose and add.