Noodles (Sen in Thai) play a major part in our eclectic local food scene. Thai noodles come in various shapes and forms, from the common yellow or white ones in soup and Pad Thai to the rarer-to-come-by glass noodle spicy salad or rolled Guay Jub noodle. Inspired by diverse cultures and flavored with local wisdom, it wouldn’t be a stretch to liken Thai noodles to line arts.
A dozen of local to-die-for noodles you most likely have never heard of
Ba Mee (Egg Noodles)
Originally Cantonese, the round and yellow Ba Mee is among the most common Thai noodles and a go-to choice for many Thais. Roast duck, crab meat, and chicken leg are Ba Mee’s classic partners in delicious crime. Succulent boiled bok choy and bean sprout, along with freshly fried garlic and chopped coriander are prerequisites to a dreamy bowl.
Ba Mee sometimes comes in flat shape (Sen Ban) and also goes well with the meat trio. However, Sen Ban’s best friend is Khao Soy, an enticing northern Thai coconut-curry noodle soup you’ll very likely come across during your stay in Thailand.
Sen Mee (Slim Rice Vermicelli)
The round but slender white noodles are the petite sibling of Sen Lek and Sen Yai (Small and Big Noodles, respectively). Sen Mee goes well with any meat, but you’ll most likely find it in the forms of ‘Sen Mee Look Chin Nue’ (Beef Ball Noodle Soup) and Sen Mee Pad See Ew (Stir Fried Soy Sauce Noodles).
Sen Lek (Thin Rice Vermicelli)
Sen Lek is probably your best known Thai noodles because it looks like Pad Thai Noodles’ identical twin sister. (No, they are not the same.) Besides the typical meats at Thai noodle stalls, Sen Lek goes hand in hand with Tom Yum Moo Sub (Spicy Minced Pork Soup).
Sen Yai (Flat Thick Rice Noodles)
Slightly oiled to prevent the flat sheets from sticking together, Sen Yai is highest in calories among the rice noodles smaller siblings. Don’t let that scare you away from some of the very best Thai noodles dishes, though. Pad See Ew and Raad Na (Sen Yai or Sen Mee in Gravy Sauce) are unmissable. Remember you can burn calories anywhere, but a tantalizing dish of Pad See Ew can only be found in Thailand.
Kiam Ee (Round Rice Noodles)
The family’s indie member, the round, short and chewy Kiam Ee is a grandparents’ favorite. They make a scrumptious Kiam Ee Tom Yum (Round Rice Noodles in Spicy Soup). Sadly, we barely come across the retro noodles these days, so if you stumble upon them, don’t let them slip from your chopsticks!
Sen Chan (Pad Thai Noodles)
Yes, Pad Thai is made of its very own Pad Thai noodles. Sen Chan was originally made in the eastern fruit hub Chanthaburi, hence the name. Although twinned in appearance with Sen Lek, Sen Chan offers a stickier and chewier texture. Home chefs occasionally use the versatile Sen Chan for a tastier typical steaming noodle soup.
Woon Sen (Glass Noodles)
Made from mung bean, Woon Sen is often health lovers’ alternative noodle choice. Besides being high in protein and low in calories, the transparent vermicelli is unbeatable when it comes to springiness. The versatile chewy noodles can be seasoned and mixed with vegetables and meat into spicy salad (Yum Woon Sen), boiled into Suki (Thai version of hot pot) and baked with prawn into Goong Ob Woon Sen (Clay Pot Prawn and Noodles).
Sen Kaew (Glass Seaweed Noodles)
Made from polished brown sea algae, Sen Kaew is a vegetarians’ noodle choice. Also crystal clear, but bigger and crunchier than Woon Sen, the glass seaweed noodles are a staple in luscious spicy salad.
Sen Shanghai (Green Turbid Noodles)
Strangely enough, Sen Shanghai can’t be found anywhere in Shanghai (or in China, for that matter). The rolled thick green noodles possess a unique chewy texture and make for a melt-in-your-mouth Pad Kee Mao (Fiery Stir Fried Noodles). Sen Shanghai should be a light shade of green and tends to be a little difficult to come by. That being said, don’t jump at the first one you see. Avoid the flashy green as you don’t know what kind of color is in it.
Mee Krob (Deep Fried Ba Mee)
The deep fried egg noodles is many locals’ noodles of choice when it comes to Raad Na. The crispy and crunchy texture offers a great balance to the steaming gravy’s gooeyness.
Sen Guay Jub (Thick and Round Rolled Rice Noodles)
Guay Jub is another must-try noodle soup with crispy pork. The soup comes in two versions: Guay Jum Naam Sai (mild soup) and Guay Jub Naam Kon (dark brown 5-spice broth). There are fresh Guay Jub noodles (mostly found in wet markets), but the dried square sheets are more ubiquitous and handy. As one side of the sheet is dryer than the other, it will turn into soft and slightly gooey rolls when boiled.
Guay Jub Yuan (Sticky Round Rice Noodles)
The Vietnamese noodles are similar to Guay Jub in terms of the gooey texture, and Yuan is what Thai northeasterners call the Vietnamese people back in the day, hence the name. Also called Khao Piak in Thai (literally wet rice noodles) because of its rice-like look and size, Guay Jub Yuan soup is a classic breakfast in the Northeast and parts of Laos and Vietnam.
Kanom Jeen (Fermented Rice Noodles)
Despite its literal translation being Chinese dessert, the thin white vermicelli comes from The Mon, an ethnic group in Myanmar. Fermented overnight, the soft and slightly sticky noodles come with a sour tinge. Adults top a bowl of Kanom Jeen with myriads of curry soups while kids season it with soy sauce and voila! You have one of the most sought-after Thai dishes (even by the locals)!
Now that you’ve feasted your mind on the mouthwatering Thai noodle assortments, it’s time to stimulate your other senses with the real dishes. You probably know by now that good noodles are as vital, if not more so, to a scrumptious bowl as the soup. Like other local grub, soft and chewy noodles aren’t found just anywhere. We hope you come across some taste bud sprinklers while eating your way through a variety of Thai noodles.