What is Rat Na? Before getting to the answer imagine the heat mixed with the humidity that surrounds you, whiffs of food, noise of automobiles’ horns and dense clouds of chili peppers that sting your eyes. All around are carts that cook food and sell their goodies to hungry patrons. What I have just described is a typical glimpse of everyday life in the bustle of Bangkok, an immense metropolis that revolves around food in all its forms and facets. Throughout the city an estimated 11,000 restaurants and dozens of thousand of stalls scattered throughout the city are estimated to be operative.
In order to show how central food is within Thai culture, just think of what is considered the true and most authentic Thai greeting “Gin Khao Reu Yang“? Have you already eaten? Which has nothing to do with the much milder version coined after the Second World War Sawadee.
In every corner of the city, day and night sellers crowd onto the Pak Soi (Beginning of an alley) to guarantee a fast and efficient service. With less and less time available and as the living spaces are increasingly reduced, many Thais prefer the possibility of buying food quickly on the street and starting eating immediately. Food and in particular Khong Kin Len (snacks) mark the day of Thais, kill moments of boredom and also help to make friends in a collectivist society that cultivates the harmony of the group.
Where to eat Bangkok’s best Rat Na?
Each restaurant specializes in special dishes and can serve ready-made dishes, such as buffets, or cook on the spot. Among the restaurants I like to hang out the most there is Rad Na Yot Phak 40 years. The restaurant is located in the area of Sao Chin Cha (Historic District) and like most of the restaurants in the area it has been in business for more than 70 years. The 40 years of the name refer to the years of the Rat Na secret recipe that is jealously guarded by the owners.
Rat Na is a Sino-Thai dish made with stir-fried spaghetti (noodles), meat such as chicken, beef, pork or fish, garlic and mushrooms. The dish is covered with a sauce made of broth and tapioca starch or corn starch, all of which is seasoned with sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and black pepper. In Thailand, people add sugar, fish sauce, sliced chilies preserved in vinegar. Then there are variants, in which rice vermicelli are used instead of thick noodles, and the use of thin fried noodles (mi krop), with the sauce poured to soften them.
The restaurant not only serves Rat Na but also duck noodles and pork skewers and its cuisine can make a starry restaurant jealous. As mentioned above, another specialty to try is crunchy egg spaghetti with fish sauce, among the most popular dishes. A bowl of crunchy noodles is served with a separate pan filled with sauce and seafood. The sauce is then poured on top of the noodles to keep the noodles crunchy until you start eating. They are open every day from 9:00 am to 9:30 pm. It is absolutely an informal place to eat authentic and high quality food surrounded by the picturesque atmosphere of old Bangkok.