Bangkok Post reviews
Oodles of flavour
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: July 13, 2012 at 3:59 am
Siam Paragon finally gets a noodle joint that can take on the best of the street vendors in the taste stakes
Fong tao hoo , beancurd sheets stuffed with pork and then deep-fried.
Long experience has taught Ung-aang Talay (U-a T) to keep expectations low when approaching noodle dishes served anywhere except in certain kinds of roadside kui tio shops and market stalls.
Seductive as they may appear, sitting in their designer bowl mingling with top-quality meats and vegetables, the noodles (like the fried-rice dishes) offered at upscale restaurants and five-star hotels can lack a quality, often having to do with the broth, that true noodle addicts demand and whose absence they can instantly detect.
So it came as a pleasant surprise to find some quite satisfying noodle dishes being served to a large and eager crowd at Nuer Koo, a recently opened restaurant on the 4th floor of Siam Paragon.
Nuer Koo is not an enclosed restaurant but a comfortable and pleasantly relaxed dining area that forms a curve along one of this shopping centre's broad walkways.
The large black menu has a predominant cow motif, and indeed the emphasis is on beef noodle dishes, although pork versions and a choice of side dishes and snacks are also listed.
Given its prominence on the menu, the star offering seems to be beef soup with sliced beef, which can be ordered with different grades of that meat at varying prices, from chuck at 160 baht all the way up to Kobe beef at 950 baht a serving.
U-a T and friends were in the mood for noodles, however, and, after surveying the options requested a bowl of kui tio moo dam (kurobuta pork noodles; at 120 baht) and bowls of beef noodles in a traditional broth made with nuea pueay (beef that has been stewed until it becomes tender enough to cut with a fork; at 80 baht).
Orders were also placed for kui chaai (fried chive cakes), fong tao hoo (minced pork-stuffed, deep-fried tofu skins) and luuk chin plaa (balls of pounded fish meat) made, the menu pointed out, with fish from Phuket.
First to arrive was the kui tio moo dam, made with sen yai (broad rice noodles). If Nuer Koo don't make their own noodles they get them from a very good source, because these were thin and had a good, chewy texture.
The pork, in large slices, was light and lean, and shared the bowl with a small amount of minced pork, fried garlic and chopped spring onions.
The dish had an inviting appearance, but U-a T found it under-seasoned, almost unacceptably bland until it was brightened up with some of the pounded, fried dried chillies included among the condiments. Then it was pleasing enough, but well-prepared noodles should be delicious as served, with seasonings added only as an accent.
The pork noodles were the meal's only disappointment. The kui tio nuea pueay, this time ordered with the very fine-gauge rice noodles called sen mee, was different from any that U-a T had tasted before.
The broth had plenty of flavour, although U-a T's tablemates agreed that it would have been even better if it were a little less salty. The meat was not cut into large pieces, as it often is for nuea pueay dishes, but had been crumbled into smaller morsels whose solid texture was compared by one member of the group to that of good corned beef. Beansprouts, chopped spring onions, small pieces of tender beef and small meatballs were also included to give the dish an appealing variety of textures and flavours. A very fine version of the dish, and strongly recommended.
Nuer Koo's kui chaai, fried Chinese chive cakes, were the best U-a T had ever tasted. These chive-stuffed dumplings are usually encountered in the steamed form sold by roadside vendors, especially in the Yaowarat area.
Although U-a T can rarely resist the sidewalk version despite the mushy filling and, usually, gummy shell it is wrapped in, Nuer Koo's skillet-fried version was in a wholly different category altogether.
The shell was browned to crunchiness but not scorched, and the chive filling still had its bright-green colour and a fresh flavour that came even more fully to life when doused with a bit of sauce. Definitely ask for these.
The pork-stuffed tofu skins arrived crisp and hot from the fryer. This is a simple dish with little to differentiate one properly cooked version from another, but when eaten with a sweet dip their snacky appeal was very strong and they disappeared fast.
More distinctive were Nuer Koo's Phuket fish balls, with their clean, firm texture and the sweet flavour of very fresh fish. Judging from the number of customers vying for seats at Nuer Koo this past weekend, word is already out about the quality of the beef dishes here. So it would be a good idea to phone ahead and book a table, especially if you are planning to dine with a group.
Service, despite the crush of customers, was friendly and efficient. Prices ranged from moderate to high, depending on the cut of beef requested.
Noodles in a traditional broth made with tender beef.