Everything a coolie needs
On right, half-way down Charoen Krung Soi 23 off Charoen Krung Rd, Bangkok
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Update, 1 June 2015: The Ba Mii Jap Kang noodle stall was sadly destroyed in a fire that also gutted several heritage houses. We will report back here if and when it reopens.
Ba mii jap 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 Mii Jap Kang, with weekends seeing queues of people wanting a seat or some take-away.
At Ba Mii Jap 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 mii jap 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 mii jap 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.
Jap kang actually comes from the Hokkien dialect where jap 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.
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: thamada 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. No phone, bathroom, or sink.
Once you're fully stuffed, head further into this Chinese joss paper making neighbourhood to check out the Historic Hut.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 2nd June, 2015.