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Thai Beef Noodle Soup, a Street Food Recipe

Om is an inquisitive foodie who likes to share recipes that everyone can enjoy.

Thai beef noodle soup.

Thai beef noodle soup.

If you ever visit Thailand, this is one of the must-try street foods. In Thai, we call it kuay teow rhua, meaning "boat noodles." The reason for that is because it used to be sold on little boats in Thailand's numerous canals. Nowadays, you don't need to look for floating vendors in order to enjoy this delectable noodle soup anymore; it is widely available on land, even more so than in the canals, its original birthplace.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today is a quick and easy version of this dish. Traditionally, boat noodle sellers would prepare their broth from scratch by simmering cow bones with spices for hours. Having no such patience, I resort to utilizing ready-made beef broth, which helps save hours of my time. And the taste? Pretty close to the authentic version! If you're looking for a hearty Thai soup to enjoy this winter, this is certainly a delicious option to keep in mind.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

30 min

35 min

2 servings


  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 2 to 3 inches long)
  • 2 to 3 dried star anise flowers
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coliander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • about 4 ounces of dried rice noodles
  • 1 cup thin beef slices
  • 6 to 10 Asian-style beef meatballs
  • a handful of sweet basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup pig or cow blood (optional)


  1. Add beef broth and about 2 cups of water to a small soup pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add celery, cinnamon sticks, star anise, garlic, ground coliander, sweet soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar and salt.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and let cook for about 20 minutes. Discard the cinnamon sticks, star anise flowers and celery. Allow the broth to simmer.
  4. Cook rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain well and place the cooked rice noodles into two serving bowls. Set aside.
  5. Bring the broth to a boil again, add cow or pig blood (optional). Then add beef slices and meatballs. (If you slice your beef thin, it should take just about 1 to 2 minutes to cook.) Once the beef slices are cooked, transfer them to the serving bowls along with the meatballs and broth.
  6. Top with fresh bean sprouts and sweet basil leaves. (If you don't like raw bean sprouts, go ahead and cook them in the broth for 1 to 2 minutes.)
  7. You may also add Thai fish sauce, vinegar or ground chili pepper if you'd like. Boat noodle restaurants in Thailand usually have these seasonings handy at each table.
  8. Enjoy!

Ingredient Photo Guide

Asian beef meatballs.

Asian beef meatballs.

Asian Meatballs

You can find meatballs like these in the frozen section of most Asian supermarkets and grocery stores. Usually, they are fully cooked, slightly bouncy in texture and mildly seasoned.

Dried rice noodles.

Dried rice noodles.

Types of Rice Noodles

Thai rice noodles are usually categorized by their levels of thickness.

  • The largest version is called sen yai; these flat noodles are basically like the Chinese chow fun.
  • The small, thin ones are known as sen lek; they are similar to those used in Vietnamese pho.
  • Finally, sen mee is the tiniest version. If you have never seen them, think of angel-hair pasta.

In this recipe, I use sen lek, but you can opt for another kind of noodles if you like. Bean threads or woon sen, however, usually don't work so well in this noodle soup.

Fresh pig's blood.

Fresh pig's blood.

Pig's Blood (Optional)

I know this special ingredient might make some of you feel a little uneasy or even queasy. Well, Thai beef noodle soup isn't always made with blood. However, in most restaurants and vendors, it is often available upon request. Do I like it? Heck yeah! It adds such a deep flavor to the broth, and once it's cooked, it doesn't taste or smell like blood at all. (DO NOT ingest it raw!)

So if you're adventurous with food, be sure to put this blood soup on your "to-devour" list. And if you ever want to have a Thai Halloween party, this could be a marvellous item for your "bloodcurdling" menu. Oh, and by the way, I'm not a vampire.

Please Rate This Thai Street Food Recipe


Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 19, 2015:

I am in Bangkok right now and will look for this in the street. You made this sound easy to prepare.

Om Paramapoonya (author) on February 14, 2013:

@Anna Evanswood - Thanks, Anna. It's certainly an adventure worth taking :)

Anna from Malaysia on February 09, 2013:

Authentic and sounds delicious. I love Thai food and this looks like the sort of adventure I would like to have :)

Om Paramapoonya (author) on December 13, 2012:

@vespawoolf - Making your own broth is probably better, actually! Thanks a lot for visiting this hub, vespawoolf. Quite interesting to learn that Asian ingredients are not too hard to find in Lima :)

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 13, 2012:

I'm really excited to find this recipe! I love Thai soup and look forward to trying this one. Although I'm adventurous with food, I'll take mine without the blood. : ) There's quite an Asian culture here in Lima, so I can get all these ingredients. We don't have ready made beef broth, though, so I'll have to make my own but I don't mind too much. Thanks!

Om Paramapoonya (author) on December 10, 2012:

@cclitgirl - Thanks! Hope you give this noodle doup recipe a try soon. :)

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 10, 2012:

Wonderful hub and your pictures are astounding. I haven't cooked much with rice noodles, but I am thinking that I need to try these!

Om Paramapoonya (author) on December 05, 2012:

@rebeccamealey - Thanks! Yeah, I think it's a pretty healthy dish :)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 05, 2012:

Well, it looks so healthy. Street food seems like an odd term for it. Thanks for sharing!

Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 06, 2012:

@Peggy W - Hehe I agree! I grew up eating lots of Thai street food, and yes, those were my memorable days.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 03, 2012:

Hi Om,

Gave this another 5 stars just because it sounds delicious with all of those flavorings. I would say that people eat well on the streets of Thailand! Up votes and will share.

Om Paramapoonya (author) on October 28, 2012:

@Kimberly Vaughn - Thanks. Hope you try it soon :)

Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on October 25, 2012:

This looks delicious! I am going to have to try it!

Om Paramapoonya (author) on October 25, 2012:

@carol7777 - Thanks, Carol. I hope you give it a try sometime. You can enjoy this soup without the noodles as well. We call the noodle-free version "kao lao."

@goodlady - Yes, kuay teow rhua in Tuscany sounds truly awesome! You can savor the soup as you're enjoying the gorgeous scenery of the mountains. Oh, I envy you!!!

@rjsadowski - Thank you!

@randomcreative - Those meatballs look yummy, don't they? Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Rose. Always glad to hear from you.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 25, 2012:

I love your Thai recipes and am intrigued with those meatballs now. This looks simple and delicious.

rjsadowski on October 25, 2012:

A great recipe and a lot of other useful information.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on October 25, 2012:

I do love your Thai recipes and I think I can find the ingredients for this delicious recipe (in Rome) - especially those meat balls. It'd be fantastic to be able to make it here in the middle of Tuscany! It's just my kind of food and I miss it. Thanks for your wonderful recipe and for making it seem very simple to make. I love your photographs.

carol stanley from Arizona on October 24, 2012:

This really looks different and We love soup. Lots of unique ingredients. I am thinking about bookmarking for the next soup occasion. Great recipe ,great photos and great job. Voted UP.

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