Uncle’s Egg Noodles on Ekamai


How good would a bowl of bamee, the ubiquitous and simple Chinese-style egg noodles, have to be in order to justify a wait of ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes?  For many residents of Bangkok, they would have to be as good as Uncle’s.


While practically everybody knows about this noodle shop, I only learned about it by reading Chawadee Nualkhair’s “Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls,” a handy and well-written English language guide for anyone who is serious about eating good Thai street food.

You can find Uncle’s noodles (the stand also goes by the name “slow noodles” because of the wait) at the corner of Ekamai and Ekamai Soi 19. His cart is built on the back of a small pickup truck, a nifty arrangement that reminds me of the food trucks of Los Angeles, except with no Korean tacos. You have to place your order by writing on a pad – in Thai, of course. Best to have a friend come with you, write out your order in advance, or as Khun Chawadee suggests, if you are brave you can just copy the previous customer’s order!


The menu is quite simple: bamee (egg noodles) served either in soup or dry, with barbecue pork (“red pork”) and pork wontons. The ingredients are on display: your guarantee of freshness. Say, what are those black things in the display case? Nothing like a few phallic good luck charms to ensure good business. It seems that they’ve worked!


All of the seating is on the sidewalk, either on the Ekamai side or heading down the side soi. Orders to go are welcome, too. I’ll say that the location is a bit of a curse from an enjoyment perspective. There are a lot of big trucks traveling on Ekamai at night and the smoke and fumes take away from the experience. The stand doesn’t open up until after 8:00 each night, so at least the gridlock of cars isn’t there anymore. That might be worse.


Every noodle shop in Thailand – and I do mean every – offers customers condiments to dress their own noodles. Dried chili flakes, sugar, vinegar with chilies, and fish sauce (sometimes with chopped chilies). This allows each customer to perfect the seasoning.


Here’s my bowl of bamee with barbecued pork, chopped pork, fried pork fat, and a special ingredient: soft boiled egg. Pork-a-palooza! If you order the red pork at a rice and red pork stand, boiled egg is a standard condiment. However, at a noodle stand, the soft boiled egg is an unusual addition.

The question is, what makes this particular bamee so special? As I mentioned, people will wait up to thirty minutes to eat it and, honestly, at a certain level I think that bamee is bamee is bamee. But, there are a few things that separate good from mediocre bamee: Noodles are fresh, tender, and flavorful. Broth has a rich flavor. Ingredients are of high quality and are fresh. Uncle’s noodles has all of these qualities. The addition of crispy fried pork fat adds a little extra texture that is very flavorful, and the boiled egg is a nice addition, too.


We also ordered a bowl of wonton soup, which featured beautiful fresh wontons with a tasty interior along with some more of the red pork and chopped pork. Something that set the wontons apart is that the wrappers were especially delicate and thin, not chewy at all.

All in all, Uncle’s noodles are well worth searching out, although the location makes for a less than ideal dining experience.



Cooking – Attempting the Truffled Egg Toast

On our last two visits to New York City, Tawn and I have fallen in love with a small panini shop and wine bar in Greenwich Village called ‘ino.  The ambience is fantastic, the service is friendly, and most importantly the food is good.  After buying their cookbook on my last visit, I’ve eagerly awaited the opportunity to try and recreate their most perfect menu item: the truffled egg toast.


Perfect for breakfast, perfect for lunch, perfect for dinner, the truffled egg toast (original pictured above) is a thick slick of white bread, lightly toasted, with a pair of egg yolks gently baked in a well in the center of the toast while Fontina cheese melts along the edges.  Afterwards, it is drizzled with truffle oil and generously salted and peppered.  Lightly grilled asparagus provide the perfect condiment.

It is hard for me to convey in words just how wonderful the combination of flavors is: Truffle, egg, cheese, and asparagus just go together really well.


The big problem I faced here in Thailand was finding a loaf of bread that isn’t sliced.  I could bake it myself, but the ideal bread for this is a white sandwich bread, not something rustic like my homemade bread turns out.  Finally, Tawn spoke with a manager of a bakery and they said we could order unsliced loaves a day in advance.  Once we got the bread home, I realized it was a little too airy, sweet, and eggy – kind of like Portuguese sweet bread – to be ideal.  But I decided to press ahead with the experiment.


After toasting the bread lightly in the oven, I used a serrated knife to cut a 2-inch square in the middle of each slice, cutting about halfway into the 1-inch thick bread.  Then, using the handle of the knife, I tamped the bread down, forming a well.


The next step was to line the edges of the toast with Fontina cheese.  Except, in cheese-unfriendly Thailand, I couldn’t find Fontina so substituted Gouda.  Cheese is very expensive here and the types you find are very inconsistent.  A few months ago, I saw Fontina.  But when I went to the store this time, there was none.

In the middle of the well I put the yolks of two eggs.  When I first attempted this recipe after our first visit to ‘ino (before we bought the cookbook), I didn’t realize they only used the yolks so when I put a whole egg into the well, it just spilled over the top of the toast.  This seems to illustrate the saying, “If all else fails, read the directions.”


Not following directions, I broiled the toast rather than baking it, so the egg set a little firmer than was ideal.  That said, upon pulling the toast out of the oven, I stirred the egg with the tip of my knife and it turned out to be plenty runny.

The biggest problem was my truffle oil.  This oil has a limited shelf life and the oil we have is over a year old.  The strength of the truffle aroma is nearly gone, so we weren’t getting a healthy dose of that heady earthiness that makes truffles so wonderful.  Thankfully, we had a jar of black truffle salt on hand, so I liberally sprinkled that on top of the toast.

The conclusion?  Well, I don’t think I’m going to put ‘ino to shame anytime soon.  But with a little practice, a better choice of bread, cheese, and oil, and more attention to the directions, I think I’ll have a truffle toast worth serving to guests.  And considering that the real deal is 9,000 miles away, I think Tawn and I will be able to live with second-best until our next visit to New York!


Eggs Benedict

Tawn and I enjoy poached eggs and find Eggs Benedict to be a nice weekend brunch treat.  For some reason, though, we haven’t had a lot of luck learning how to poach eggs.  Everyone has a special secret or tip to share – put vinegar in the water, stir the water in a clockwise motion before introducing the eggs, use only the freshest eggs, put the unopened egg in the hot water for ten seconds to firm up the whites – but we still come up with wildly inconsistent results.  So we recently bought a non-stick poaching tray and set about learning to make Hollandaise sauce.


The Hollandaise sauce was surprisingly easy, employing a technique similar to making the wonderful French dessert sabayon, also known in Italian as zabagione.  You whisk egg yolks with lemon juice (I managed to use a little too much, thanks to eyeballing it rather than measuring) in a baine-marie – a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  The gentle heat of the steam cooks the eggs slowly and as you whisk them, you keep them from scrambling.

Then, once doubled in volume, you add a stream of melted butter, whisking all the while to emulsify, or incorporate, the butter into the egg yolk mixture.  This produces a thick, rich sauce that can then be seasoned with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.


On the back burner, the sauce is set to a low heat to keep it warm and I’ll add a few teaspoons of water to thin it out before serving.  The egg poacher in on the front burner, with simmering water halfway up its side.  In about four minutes, the eggs will be nicely done with firm whites and liquid, but warm, yolks.  On the right, Tawn fries some ham slices.


The finished Eggs Benedict, employing a slice of homemade whole grain bread in lieu of an English muffin, accompanied with some fresh papaya.  Tasty.