Another day, another noodle. Today I made laad naa, which is a fried noodle dish with gravy. It's a great street food and as I'm learning, one that takes a certain amount of skill to execute.
A couple of years ago when our Thai friend F told us that her favorite dish was laad naa, I had kind of a hard time wrapping my head around the idea. I loved noodles and all, but it just seemed too simple. A great comfort food maybe, but your favorite? Over time I came around. Not that I agreed, but I came to understand that it is hard to beat a good bowl of laad naa. It turns out that David Thompson's favorite noodle dish also happens to be laad naa, and I think I can see why.
A good laad naa takes time to get to know. The noodles need to be fried just right until colored by the wok and dark soy sauce. Too long and they're overcooked, not long enough and the noodles just taste bland. The gravy needs to be thicker than soup, but not over thick to be a gelatinous mess. The right mix of tapioca starch and broth is key, but first you gotta nail the deceptively simple seasoning. The interplay between the light and dark soy sauces, the yellow bean sauce, Chinese broccoli and pork definitely is going to take some practice
Now, there are two things wrong with my laad naa. Can you spot them?
First of all, I didn't use the right noodles. The noodles should be thick. I've never had a laad naa with noodles like these and this alteration might be unforgivable to some. But these were the noodles I had today, and getting different ones was impossible so I just went for it. I figured the process was more important. And two, my gravy quotient was all wrong. It tasted right, but there simply wasn't enough of it. But what there was was quite good.
Here's a pic of a bowl of laad naa with lots of gravy from the market in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I can't remember if this was a great version or not, but it gives you a better idea of what the "real" thing might look like.
I'm not calling mine a failure, More like a work in progress. At least the aftermath was encouraging. Here's a shot of the leavings. Looks good to me.