May 01 2011

Ba Mee Cap Kang: The best coolie noodles in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Published by at 12:39 pm under Food

Ba mee cap kang is not a meal for the dainty. And while it’s available at other places in Chinatown, Thais flock to the food stall bearing the same name, Ba Mee Cap Kang, with weekends seeing queues of people wanting a seat or some take-away.

Pork fat-slicked egg noodles nestled with scallions and slivers of roasted pork. I'd step over my mother.

At Ba Mee Cap Kang, chewy, springy egg noodles are boiled in a huge vat of pork broth over a charcoal brazier and then tossed around with a heavy set of chop sticks to rid them of extra liquid. The cook then directs the falling noodles into a bowl, cooking and portioning in one movement. Chunks of pork shoulder that have been slowly braised until tender are sliced into the bowl, along with some leaner slices of roasted pork. Spring onions follow, bright and crisp. Finally, a dollop of liquid pork fat reserved from the braising slicks up the noodles and the accompanying meat.

Why would one eat a bowl of noodles served with pork and pork fat (asides from the fact that it’s awesome)? Carrying stuff is hard, and people who carry stuff deserve to eat a fatty, fatty bowl of deliciousness.

Ba mee cap kang is an excellent example of what happened when millions of Chinese immigrants began arriving in Thailand: techniques from the old country were mixed with ingredients from the new. Most recent immigrants arrived without many skills and with no money. Ba mee cap kang provided the perfect combination of lots of calories and a filling amount of protein for men who worked on the docks and in Chinatown warehouses as porters and coolies.

Cap kang actually comes from the Hokkien dialect where cap kang means “assorted labour”, which is a pretty good summation of what a manual labourer does to get by. While the noodles and the braised pork can be traced back to China, the green chilli sauce, fish sauce, crushed dried chillies, and fried garlic served to garnish the bowl are pure Thai.

Whip it! Whip it real good!

Even if you haven’t spent the day hauling things, this bowl of noodles is a required indulgence. The chewy noodles are amazing, so pull up a chair to a rickety table and order: taamada or phiiset (regular or large), heng or naam (dry or in broth). Those are all the options a coolie needs. Regular 30 baht, large 35 baht.

Ba Mee Cap Gang (Coolie Noodles)
Half way down the alley from Charoen Krung Rd, right side, close to Wat Mangon
No phone, bathroom, or sink.
Open daily, 10:30-18:30,
MRT: Hualamphong (plus a long walk)
From the corner of Charoen Krung Rd and Plaeng Nam Rd, turn left into the first alley on the north side of the road, and look on the right for a man slinging big bowls of noodles around under a sign with a picture of yellow noodles on it.

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