Sap's umbrella ceiling.....
I stopped by Sap’s for lunch after making a night deposit at the cater-corner bank on Sunday morning, while on my way to work at the nursery. Sap wasn’t there but I ordered an all-time favorite, S-F11, Guay Teaw Kua Gai. It’s a street vendor and grandma dish made with wide flat rice noodles, beaten egg, pickled radish sprouts, mung bean sprouts, a mother sauce that’s soy-based, with fried garlic and the meat of your choice. Traditionally it comes with egg and chicken – it’s that whole egg and chicken thing - but at Sap’s you can get it with any sliced meat. I prefer it with ground pork rather than sliced pork, or any other sliced meat for that matter. It comes with a mixed lettuce salad on the side, and a ramekin of a nice sweet-spicy Thai dressing to drizzle on the greens and over the noodles. I also ask for a small ramekin of the green chile and garlic sauce that goes on the Nuer Ob (S-P46); that chile sauce is a perfect match for the noodles. Sap should be bottling those sauces.
Some vendors, the real old school vendors, cook the dish over a charcoal fire, using porkalicious lard to precook the meat and then sauté the noodle part of the dish. Their cooking fire is blazing, with flames leaping up the side of the wok. They use a little bellows to fan the coals and get the fire glowing white hot. That’s what gives the sen yai (wide) rice noodles that much-loved “kiss of the dragon”; the charring and caramelization that makes the dish taste so damn good. With many of the vendors the dish is more egg than noodle, so that it ends up being more of a noodle omelet than a noodle stir fry with some beaten egg sautéed into it. Either way it’s a fine dish.
I also got a breakfast item of sorts: S-P33, Sweet, Hot Bamboo Shoot. It’s essentially a bowl of bamboo shoot strips that have been quickly stir-fried with beaten eggs, garlic, slices of jalapeño chile, some soy sauce, and brown sugar (or palm sugar). It is exactly what it says it is: bamboo shoots that are sweet and spicy, in a rich sauce.
Whenever you see a soy-based sauce in a dish, like in these two, it’s almost always a Chinese-based dish that got morphed into becoming a unique Thai dish. The first major migration of Chinese into Thailand happened between about 700 to 1300 AD, Nanzhao and Dali people from Yunan that were being persecuted for some reason or another; the early Chinese were good at persecuting their own. The Tai people of southern China, Vietnam, and Laos have moved freely in and out of northern Thailand through the eons. Don’t forget that the Chinese started coming to Thailand (and the rest of the countries in SE Asia) to trade: by sea, into Bangkok and other cities via the rivers. Chinese junks sailed all the way up to Ayutthaya in the central plains. They also trekked with donkey pack trains overland, through what is now northern Thailand, into Burma, to reach the seaport trading centers along the Andaman Sea. They imported goods and set up markets, becoming a solid merchant class in Thailand. Naturally, they also brought their recipes and ingredients, and we’re glad they did.
Mick Vann ©