The repertoire of Thai cooking is full of incredibly delicious noodle dishes. From the brothy to the pan-fried, they’re the stuff of cravings. Plus, you can customize them in endless ways, adjusting them to your palate. Pok Pok chef and founder Andy Ricker shares how he recreates some of his restaurants’ most popular noodle dishes at home. It’s the subject of his latest book, "Pok Pok Noodles: Recipes from Thailand and Beyond." It's the final installment in the Pok Pok trilogy of books.
Most noodle dishes in Thailand are Chinese in origin, owing to waves of immigration from China at the end of the 17th and 19th centuries. The Chinese culinary influence was accelerated by Thailand’s urbanization, when people started migrating to cities in greater numbers, Ricker explains. “These workforces needed something to eat that was quick and easy," he says. "And the influx of Chinese traders and workers there, the tradition of serving noodles like this came with them.”
Thai people then adapted these new dishes to their own palate.
I was meeting my friend Ajaan Sunee for lunch at Chiang Mai University when I first encountered this unassuming stir-fry. Ajaan Sunee, the college’s home ec professor at the time, took me to the school’s cafeteria, which students swarmed between classes. In particular, they crowded around a vendor renowned for her MAMA phat. The dish is typical college-kid fare—economical, simple, filling. It was a testament to this cook’s talent that she could inspire such enthusiasm for what is essentially a collection of the least expensive ingredients available—cabbage, carrot, onion, and briefly boiled instant noodles—tossed for a spell in a hot wok. Made with care, though, the dish transcends its status to become something I’d gladly eat any time.
Compared to most versions, this recipe calls for a goddamn panoply of vegetables, all of which count as suggestions that you can take or leave. One of the great things about MAMA phat is that it’s a delicious fridge-clearer. Virtually any vegetable is welcome. The pork, too, can be swapped at will for shrimp, chicken, or tofu. Just don’t get fancy with the noodles.
Stir-fried Instant Ramen Noodles with Pork and Cabbage
Makes 1 plate (1 serving)
Suggested Khruang Phrung
Phrik Naam Plaa (Fish Sauce–Soaked Chiles)
Phrik Naam Som (Vinegar-Soaked Chiles)
Phrik Pon Khua (Toasted-Chile Powder)
Sugar (preferably raw cane sugar)
- 2 ½ oz pork loin, cut into 2 by ½ by ⅛-inch strips
- 12 g / 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed into small pieces in a mortar
- A few dashes of Thai seasoning sauce
- A dash of Thai fish sauce
- Pinch of finely ground Asian white pepper
- 42 g / ½ cup roughly sliced (½-inch half-moons) napa cabbage
- 28 g / ½ cup bean sprouts
- 25 g / ¼ cup julienned (about 3 by ⅛ inch) peeled carrot
- 25 g / ¼ cup thinly sliced (¼ inch; with the grain) yellow onion
- 20 g / ¼ cup roughly chopped (2 inches) yu choy (stems and leaves)
- 1 (60 g) package Thai instant ramen (such as MAMA brand), seasoning powder and seasoning paste discarded
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola, soybean, or rice bran
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- ¼ cup Naam Sup Muu (Pork Stock)
- 1 tbsp Thai seasoning sauce
- 1 tbsp Thai oyster sauce
- 5 g / 1 tsp granulated sugar
- A generous pinch of finely ground Asian white pepper
- 8 g / 2 tbsp sliced (¼ inch) green onion
Prep the Pork
In a small bowl, combine the pork, garlic, seasoning sauce, fish sauce, and pepper. Mix well with your hands, then let marinate for 5 minutes or so.
- In a small bowl, combine the cabbage, bean sprouts, carrot, onion, and yu choy and set aside.
- Fill a large, tall pot with enough water to submerge a long-handled noodle basket and bring to a boil over high heat. Put instant ramen noodles in the basket (breaking the noodles slightly to fit if need be) and submerge the noodles in the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally with chopsticks to separate, until the noodles are tender, about 2 minutes. Firmly shake the basket to drain well and set aside.
- Set a flat-bottomed wok over very high heat and heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the oil and swirl the wok to coat the sides.
- Add the pork mixture and stir-fry, constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients, until the outsides of the pork are no longer raw, 5 to 10 seconds. Push to one side of the wok, then crack the egg onto the other side and cook until the white is nearly set, about 15 seconds. Flip the egg (it’s okay if the yolk breaks) and stir-fry, breaking up the egg slightly, until it’s just about fully cooked, about 10 seconds more.
- Add the noodles and cabbage mixture and stir-fry until the vegetables are wilted and just tender, about 45 seconds. Add the pork stock, seasoning sauce, and oyster sauce and stir well. Add the sugar and pepper, stir-fry for 10 seconds, and turn off the heat.
- Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with the green onion. Serve with the khruang phrung alongside.