This soup dish features crispy rice vermicelli noodles, a chicken broth that has a three-flavor profile infused with the aroma of bitter orange, and a plethora of other ingredients such as crispy fried tofu, chicken, pork, crab and pickled garlic.
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In Thai, the phrase mee naam baan raat thuut refers to a rice vermicelli noodle soup in the style of the Ambassador’s house. The dish was not new when it appeared in the 1956 book Snacks, Tea Nibbles, Hors D’oeuvres and Drinking Food (ตำราอาหารว่าง – เครื่องน้ำชา และ เครื่องเคี้ยว หรือ กับแกล้ม) by Jeeb Bunnag (จีบ บุนนาค), as noodle dishes were often the preferred ingredient for light meals or snacks. In Grandparents Recipes: 100 Years Old Recipes (จานอร่อยจากปู่ย่า สูตรโบราณ 100 ปี), a volume printed in 2014 that highlights recipes from the kitchens of fifteen prominent families, a similar version of the dish is referred to as mee naam baan bpaak naai leert (หมี่น้ำบ้านปาร์คนายเลิศ) and is associated with Nai Lert.
Nai Lert Sreshthaputra (นายเลิศ เศรษฐบุตร) was an innovative entrepreneur with strong business acumen. He was involved in a variety of industries, including the introduction of the first ice factory in Siam, the importation of motor vehicles from Europe and the US, and the initiation of the first bus transportation system in Bangkok. In 1915, Nai Lert purchased a large plot of land on Phloenchit Road. He sold the land to the British government in 1925, which built its embassy on the plot. The old British embassy building, which was also the residence of the British ambassador, was demolished in 2019. Its destruction caused quite a stir because the structure was a remarkable example of colonial British architecture.
The Nai Lert family also owned a hotel. Conveniently located near the British Embassy, the hotel was the ideal accommodation for visiting VIPs, dignitaries and other embassy guests. Today the hotel serves as a heritage museum with a restaurant and gardens.
Preparing the dish
I start the dish by preparing the main ingredients for the soup. First, I slice the pork belly into small, elongated equal-sized pieces. Then, I cut the firm pork fat into small, uniform pieces. Next, I peel and devein the shrimp, and slice it into bite-size pieces and collect the shrimp tomalley.
Moving on to the chicken, I slice the red chicken meat into small pieces; meanwhile, I boil the chicken breast until it is cooked. Once the chicken breast is fully cooked, I let it cool slightly. While the meat is still lukewarm, I pull it into thin threads. I also cook and collect the sea crab meat for the dish, as it adds an extra layer of festivity and luxury that is highly revered in Bangkok.
To prepare the firm yellow tofu, I slice it into small, elongated pieces and fry it in pork lard until it is golden-crispy. Once crispy, I set it aside to use later.
Similarly, I fry the crispy rice vermicelli in advance, following the same technique described for making mee graawp (หมี่กรอบส้มซ่าทรงเครื่อง). I use the same method for frying the crispy noodles, in order to achieve the desired crispy texture, light golden color, and nutty flavor.
To make the broth, I first mix together all the seasoning ingredients: the fermented soybean paste (tao chiao), light soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, granulated sugar and roasted ground chilies, ensuring that the sugars have properly dissolved and it has an intense three-flavor profile of sour, sweet and salty.
Next, in a pot, I fry garlic and shallots in pork lard until fragrant. I add beaten eggs and gently scramble them, making sure that the egg yolks and egg whites create beautifully colored stripes. I then add the shrimp tomalley; like the eggs, the tomalley holds life-sustaining proteins that convey the essence of life.
Once the sauce has thickened, I add all the pre-cut proteins to the mixture. This includes the pork meat, firm pork fat, dark chicken meat and cooked chicken breast threads, as well as sliced shrimp, yellow tofu cubes and crab meat. I reserve some of the crab meat and chicken threads for the toppings.
The watery version
I fry all of the ingredients together until the meat are fully cooked and the seasoning is to my satisfaction. Before serving, in a separate pot, I bring chicken broth to a boil. I scoop the seasoned fried ingredients mixture into the broth and bring everything to a boil again. Before serving, I drizzle a beaten egg into the broth to create soft, thin ribbons of cooked egg throughout the broth.
To serve the dish, I place fresh bean sprouts and slices of garlic chives in the serving bowl. I add the fried rice vermicelli and pour the cooked soup on top of the noodles. For the garnish, I use all the toppings – the reserved chicken threads and crab meat along with thin slices of pickled garlic, small diced pieces of unpeeled bitter orange fruit, thin juliennes of fresh red long chilies, hand-picked coriander leaves, slices of garlic chives, and bean sprouts (with the head and tail discarded).
The dry version
For the dry version, I follow the steps used in the watery version for preparing the sauce and cooking the ingredients until the meat is fully cooked and the seasoning is to my satisfaction.
However, instead of diluting the sauce with chicken broth, I continue stir-frying it until the liquids have almost evaporated. Then, I add crispy rice vermicelli, bean sprouts and garlic chives to the pan and fry everything together. For the garnish, I use the same toppings as in the watery version, which include the reserved chicken threads and crab meat, thin slices of pickled garlic, small diced pieces of unpeeled bitter orange fruit, thin julienned fresh red long chilies, hand-picked coriander leaves, slices of garlic chives, and bean sprouts (with the head and tail discarded).
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For the soup:
- 1/3 cup pork meat (เนื้อหมู) sliced into small elongated pieces
- 1/3 cup firm pork fat (มันหมูแข็ง) sliced into small elongated pieces
- 1/3 cup shrimp (กุ้ง) peeled, deveined and sliced into small pieces
- 1/4 cup chicken meat (เนื้อไก่) sliced into small pieces
- 1/4 cup chicken breast (อกไก่) cooked and pulled into thin threads
- 1/3 cup steamed crab meat (เนื้อปูนึ่ง) steamed
- 1/3 cup yellow firm soybean tofu (เต้าหู้เหลือง) sliced into small cubes and fried until crispy
For the crispy rice vermicelli:
- 50 g dried rice vermicelli noodles (เส้นหมี่)
- 1 tablespoon pork lard (น้ำมันหมู)
- 1/2 tablespoon fermented soybean paste (tao chiao)(เต้าเจี้ยว)
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (ซีอิ๊วขาว)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar (น้ำส้มสายชูหมักจากข้าว)
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- 1 teaspoon ground dried chili (พริกป่น)
For the broth
- 1/2 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) minced
- 2 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง) sliced
- 1 tablespoon pork lard (น้ำมันหมู)
- 2 chicken eggs (ไข่ไก่) beaten (one to fry and the second to drizzle when the soup is boiling)
- shrimp tomalley (มันกุ้ง)
- 6 cups chicken stock (น้ำสต๊อกไก่)
- pickled garlic (กระเทียมดอง) peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise
- bitter orange (som.saa)(ส้มซ่า) sliced into thin slices lengthwise and diced
- fresh red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแดง) deseeded and sliced into hair-thin juliennes, soaked in water
- coriander leaves (ใบผักชี) picked and soaked in cold water
- bean sprouts (ถั่วงอก) with the head and tail discarded
- grlic chives (ใบกุยช้าย) sliced into 1-inch pieces (2 1/2 cm).
Prepare the main ingredients:
- Pork meat: Slice the pork meat into small, elongated pieces.
- Firm pork fat: Cut the firm pork fat into small, elongated pieces.
- Shrimp: Peel the shrimp, devein it, and slice into small bite-size pieces. Squeeze and collect the tomalley.
- Chicken meat: Slice the meat into small pieces.
- Chicken breast meat: Cook in boiling water; allow to cool, and pull into thin threads while still lukewarm.
- Sea crab meat: Collect the meat from steamed sea crab.
- Yellow tofu: Slice the firm yellow tofu into small cubes and fry until crispy.
Prepare the toppings:
- Pickled garlic: Peel and thinly slice the pickled garlic lengthwise.
- Bitter orange fruit: Slice the bitter orange fruit lengthwise into thin slices and then dice into small pieces.
- Fresh red long chilies: Deseed and slice into hair-thin juliennes, then soak in water.
- Coriander leaves: Pick the coriander leaves and soak in cold water.
- Bean sprouts: Discard the head and tail of the bean sprouts.
- Garlic chives: Slice the garlic chives into 1-inch pieces (2 1/2 cm).
Fry the rice vermicelli:
- For fresh noodles, blanch in hot water, then soak in cold water to cool. Dry in the air before frying in pork lard until crispy and light yellow in color.
- For dried noodles, separate the strands and fry in small batches, directly in the oil, until they are crisp and light yellow in color. Once they have cooled, store in an airtight container.
Prepare the seasoning sauce:
- In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the seasoning sauce until the sugar has dissolved. The flavor profile should be sweet, sour and salty. Set aside.
Cook the broth:
- In a brass wok, heat the pork lard. Once hot, add the minced garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the sliced shallots and continue frying until they are transparent.
- Add the beaten chicken eggs to the wok and cook until set.
- Add the shrimp tomalley.
- Pour in the seasoning sauce and cook until fragrant.
- Add a tablespoon of pork lard and add the sliced pork meat, firm pork fat, shrimp, chicken meat and threads, and crispy tofu. Fry until the meats are cooked.
- Adjust the seasoning to taste. Set aside.
- In a separate pot, over medium heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add all the fried ingredients and bring to a boil again.
- Scoop the fried and seasoned meat mix into the pot and dilute it in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
- Arrange the sliced garlic chives in a serving bowl and add some fresh bean sprouts.
- To serve, place the bean sprouts and garlic chives in a serving bowl. Add the fried rice vermicelli and pour over the broth.
- Add fried rice vermicelli.
- Pour the cooked soup over the noodles.
- Top with all the toppings – the reserved chicken threads and crab meat along with thin slices of pickled garlic, small diced pieces of unpeeled bitter orange fruit, thin julienned fresh red long chilies, hand-picked coriander leaves, slices of garlic chives, and bean sprouts (with the head and tail discarded).
For the dry version:
- In a brass wok, prepare the broth as you would the watery version; do not use stock and fry the mixture until the liquid in it has evaporated and the contents of the pan are dry.
- Add the noodles and continue to fry together until well mixed.
- Add the bean sprouts and garlic chives. Arrange on a plate and add the toppings.
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