Simple Fare

Soi 38 @ Melbourne

Thai Boat Noodle is one of my favourite street food that I am use to get from Golden Sultan Complex. I have had it since my favourite closed. Then I stumbled upon Soi 38 in Melbourne.

Soi 38 is just across the Sheraton hotel that I usually stay in Melbourne. As I was walking down Little Collins Street to get to and back from my office in the CBD, I would walk past this multi-storey carpark and there’s always a constant queue in front of the restaurant.

Hidden away in a carpark, serving up authentic Thai Boat noodles

When owners Andy Buchan and Chavalit Piyaphanee opened Soi 38 in 2015, they served just two dishes: the signature Thai boat noodles and tom yum soup with prawn wontons. Chef Kijthavee grew up in Bangkok, and moved to Australia to attend university, where he studied IT. While in school, he began working part time in Thai kitchens, and after graduation he turned to restaurant work full time. Mr. Buchan was a customer at one of those restaurants.

Mr. Kijthavee lamented Australia’s lack of boat noodles, the dish that was originally sold from boats (hence the name) in Bangkok. It is now a ubiquitous street food throughout Thailand. Eventually, Mr. Buchan suggested they start a business selling the boat noodles that Mr. Kijthavee missed so much.

The men purchased a cart like the ones used to sell noodles on the street in Thailand. Soi 38 began as a pop-up in a cafe and bar in 2013, selling soup from the cart. In 2015 they moved into the parking garage, adding brightly colored metal tables with stools. The cart now serves as the counter of the restaurant, where customers order and pay.

Thai Boat Noodles (kway teow reua)

Thai Boat Noodles (kway teow reua) are a delicious and intensely flavoured but little known traditional Thai dish. They are associated with central Thailand, and are so called because they used to be sold from small boats along the canals and rivers. These days the vendors have moved onshore and the most famous boat noodle restaurants are found in ‘boat noodle’ alley near the Victory Monument in Bangkok.

Each bowl of Boat Noodles starts out with a mound of egg noodles and a scattering of water spinach and crunchy bean shoots. Added to this were some sliced braised beef, pork and a springy beef ball. The bowl comes to life with the addition of the complex broth exuding notes of cinnamon, soy, star anise, lemongrass, galangal and pandan and more. Boat noodles are distinctive mainly for the complex dark brown broth, which is traditionally made with blood. Mr. Kijthavee says he has not been able to find the fresh blood needed, so he has made up his own recipe that replicates the sweetness and depth that blood usually provides. 

The finishing touches are then applied with a touch of garlic oil, a few sprigs of fragrant coriander, a sprinkling of finely sliced spring onions, and some crunchy fried pork crisps. The fried pork crisps are now extra, but it was worth adding it to the delicious noodles.

Make sure you customise your Boat Noodles using the condiments of fish sauce, white sugar, crushed dried chillies and chillies in vinegar to achieve your personally preferred combination of the four pillars of Thai cuisine – salty, sour, sweet and of course spicy!

Highly recommended, if you can stand the queue.

Soi 38
38 Mcilwraith Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Tel : +61 403 547 144

Date visited : Mar 2022

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