Thai Boat Noodle Soup in Hat Yai

boat noodle soup

Boat noodle soup is known as guai dtiaw rua (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ) in Thailand. We happened to chance upon this popular stall during our last day in Hat Yai. This place seems to serve both pork and beef noodles according to the signboard but the cook told us it’s pork noodles.

boat noodle soup hatyai

Better still, the stall makes their own pork rinds! It’s hanging above the stall and these beautiful pork crackling is the product of the deep fried skin of the pork and is meant to be eaten with the noodles. They carry other brands on the table too but their own is the one with the red pig.

Just listen to the pork rind crackling in the boat noodle soup!

boat noodle soup thailand

The name boat noodle soup came from the early days when boats will pull up to the pier and tie off before serving soup to people who would come and eat at the banks. There are still markets like these in Hat Yai e.g. Hat Yai Floating Market but mostly boat noodle soup has become a land based operation.

boat noodle soup locals

You can choose from several kinds of noodles from rice vermicelli to kueh tiaw and we tried two different ones. The serving is really small – probably 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of noodles in total. However, it’s loaded with pieces of pork, meatballs, and pork liver as well as a smattering of vegetables.

thai boat noodle soup

There’s also a side of raw vegetables and bean sprouts as per Thai custom. I’m not sure if it’s THB 35 or THB 40 per bowl coz we didn’t ask but I know the pack of pork crackling is THB 15.

boat noodle soup pork rinds

You’re supposed to add the pork rind into the boat noodle soup before you eat it. The soup base is delicious – they actually put blood into the broth and season it with various herbs and it tastes fabulous. The soup base really has all the five tastes inside – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami! I was very impressed.

boat noodle soup pork crackling

This is indeed a good find as we saw that the patrons of the stall were almost all locals. They did not seem to charge us a “tourist price” either. The total came up to 110 baht for two bowls of boat noodle soup, a pack of pork rinds and drinks.

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16 thoughts on “Thai Boat Noodle Soup in Hat Yai”

    • Yeah, it’s dark coz they put blood in the soup! 🙂

      It’s one of the essential ingredients of boat noodle soup – the blood thickens the broth and basil takes away the iron flavor.

    • Yup, it was full of locals, which made me very happy! 🙂

      I want to go where the locals actually eat so it was quite a nice surprise to bump into this small shop selling boat noodle soup.

    • Yup, this is the real thing! 🙂

      Boat noodle soup comes from Thailand, I had the same thing in Bangkok too. The locals don’t eat so much though, maybe just 2-3 bowls.

      The ones over here in KL are ridiculously small portioned (at least some of them), that’s not how it is in Thailand. Also, some places are halal which means:

      1. Pork liver
      2. Blood

      The two things which makes an authentic boat noodle soup is out of the equation, which makes it a poor imitation of the real Thai boat noodle soup. I know there are places here which serves it with pork liver and blood though but I haven’t tried them.

  1. Looks good, especially with the meatballs and pork liver.. Anything with pork liver, I’m in.. The soup looks really rich, very “yap mei”, did you slurp all the soup? Or was it too salty? If me, same style.. One bowl of noodles, and another bowl of “liew” (and soup) only, best !!!

    • Yeah, I drank all the soup! 🙂

      It’s soooo nice – they actually thicken it with blood but you can’t taste it so much coz they use basil and other herbs to cover up the iron aftertaste. It’s not salty at all and I was surprised to find all five tastes in there – bitter, sour, sweet, salty, umami.

      I love the condiments they have too – sugar (!!!), crushed peanuts, and chilli flakes. It makes the soup extra yummy! The secret to Thai boat noodle soup is in the broth.

  2. Walked past this stall but didn’t managed to have any. Have heard about the small portions of boat noodles. Think a big eater like me will need at least 5 bowls to be full… Lol

    • Yeah, the portions are quite small! 🙂

      It only averages 2-3 heaped spoonfuls per bowl for this shop but most people just eat 2-3 bowls too. We ate one each coz we wanted to eat other things. I love this stall – they have so much stuff inside – meat, pork liver, meatballs etc and the pork rinds are made by themselves!

    • I loved the sight of the pork rind hanging over the stall too! 🙂

      It definitely caught my attention, that’s for sure. They make their own pork rinds but they carry other brands too, from commercial ones (like the nicely packaged pork rind with images and instructions to put it into Thai boat noodle soup – traditional way of eating it) to their own brand (which is loosely tied with nylon string).

      Hmm…good question! I don’t think I personally can eat a lot though. Haha! I can eat a couple of packets but that’s it, it’s too rich a snack to eat in bulk. It would be interesting to see a pork rind eating contest though.

  3. Now that you have eaten the authentic boat noodle, I don’t think you will need to try those super small bowls of boat noodle here. I have tried 3 shops selling boat noodles in Kuchai Entrepreneur Park and I can say not too bad because the ones I tried also uses blood and pork liver in the noodle and from the many local Thais visiting the eateries, I guess they are quite close to the authentic version.

    Are there really halal boat noodles in KL?

    • I was unfortunate enough to try the halal one in KL. 😡

      Boat Noodle in Empire Damansara is one of them. They also have branches in Jaya One and Publika. I’m not sure if they got their halal certification already but they’re aiming for that and when I went it was pork free and lots of Malays were working and eating there.

      It’s not authentic at all, they use chicken and beef and of course, there’s no blood to thicken the soup.

      The restaurants are operated by Utara 5 Food & Beverage Sdn Bhd and it’s famous for the RM 1.90 noodles – the original outlet was always packed with Muslims since it’s pork free and it targets people who doesn’t know better and couldn’t eat pork or blood.

      You’re lucky to try the one in Kuchai! I’ve heard good things about them, they’re authentic if they use pig liver and blood in the soup and I would love to check it out. I will one of these days.

      Thanks Mun! 🙂 I’ll bring my better half to see the Kuchai one and how it fares compared to the ones in Bangkok and Hat Yai. It must be good since the Thai community in Malaysia goes there.

      • Oh, I did not know that the mini bowls boat noodle that started it all in KL in Empire Damansara does not serve pork. Not very authentic then but I guess they want to tap into the bigger community who cannot eat pork, more business for them.

        If you go to Kuchai to try, this is the one to go to (mini bowl):

        This is a normal size boat noodle with pork liver in Kuchai too:

        This is another mini size boat noodle with tom yam soup in Kuchai too:

        There is another shop selling normal size boat noodle in Kuchai but I have not tried that one yet.

        • Thanks for the places and links Mun! 🙂

          I’ll love to try the first one, it’s fun to eat mini bowls although a normal size boat noodle soup would be cheaper if they only put 1-2 spoonfuls in the former. There are more decently sized portions in Thailand – the shop in this post had about 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of noodles and a large amount of meat.

          Yeah, it was the commercialized Boat Noodle that’s the halal/pork free one and always packed with Muslims. I guess it’s a good business model since they can get Malays to come too and they certainly seem to be doing well.

          I just won’t ever go there again coz it’s not as nice as the boat noodle soup in Thailand that uses pig liver and blood and it’s not authentic.


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