Everywhere you go in Asia, there will be stalls selling food. And one of the most common is the guay tdeeo naam or noodle soup stall. There are varieties in most Asian countries. Pho is a famous Vietnamese version. In wealthy Taiwan they have a delicious beef version. But I got to know street food first in Bangkok, where fish balls were the name of the day. I ate it regularly, and when I returned as a diplomat, was surprised that other foreigners didn’t eat it so readily. It was probably the sight of the buckets where they washed the dishes, just beside the tables.
The soup stall consists of a cart, filled with (if I recall) two vats, one with piping hot, boiling water in which the noodles are cooked, and the other with the soup. The glass cases above it will be filled with little bundles of noodles, mostly rice noodles of different thicknesses, but sometimes egg noodles too. The soup is fragrant, and there are always accompaniments on the tables to add. The Thais develop a good palate early. They don’t hesitate to taste and add seasonings to their food at the table, till it meets their requirements. We learned to do the same with the noodle soup, adding fish sauce (for salt), sugar, vinegar, and of course, the ubiquitous chilli.
Noodle soup was a cheap, easy, meal on the run. Memories of sitting at a rickety table, on a busy street in Bangkok as the cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and motorcycles whizz by, with my AFS friends as we skipped a day of school, slurping on the soup and the noodles, and sniffing as the increasing amounts of chilli we added affected our still Western heads. Guay tdeeo naam for me means companionship, delicious companionship.