Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Pho lover. For those of you who don't know what Pho is, it is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat (usually chicken or beef). It is a popular street food in Vietnam and is one of my favorite comfort foods. When I first heard that there was a Thai alternative to Pho, I knew I had to try it. The Thai alternative to Pho is called boat noodle soup, or kuaitiao ruea.

Boat noodles both contain pork and beef they are each seasoned with a dark soy sauce and nam tok. Nam tok is cow or pig's blood mixed in with salt. Sounds funky, if you ask me, but I'm game to try almost anything at least once. The type of noodles that are used in boat noodle soup can vary, it is commonly served with pork cracklings and basil.

Where to go for Boat Noodles?

In order to try these noodles, I went to Pye Boat Noodle located on the Upper East Side. It is an adorable little restaurant with a laid-back vibe and great food; they have a great Thai iced tea and shaved ice as a dessert option. I ordered the boat noodles which had a number of protein and side dish options available. For my protein, I chose the pork and for my side dish, I chose the rice noodles.

Pho vs. Boat Noodles

Pho Noodles

beef, vegetable, broth, meat, pork, soup, pho
Isabella Gordy

Boat Noodles

rice, vegetable, beef, ramen, pork, pho, noodle
Photo courtesy of Mike Schawel

The used photo above was found on Mike Schawel's blog and it is being used with his permission.

What's the difference?

The first thing I noticed right away is that the broth used for boat noodles is very different than the broth that is used for Pho noodles. Pho broth is light and clear, it pairs well with a little lime and Sriracha. The broth that is used for Boat noodle soup is dark and pretty opaque. Nonetheless, it's delicious, but a little heavier.

Bonus: Add cilantro to your boat noodle soup, it also goes really well with Pho.

The second thing I noticed was that there was a lot of meat incorporated into this soup. The Boat Noodle soup incorporated pork in three ways: pork meatballs, small pork chops, and pork cracklings. I'm not sure if this was a Pye Boat Noodle thing, or if this is a characteristic of Thai boat noodles in general. Either way, the more the merrier, bring on the pork!


Are Boat Noodles A Thai Alternative to Pho?

Overall, these boat noodles were very satisfying and also very delicious. Pye Boat Noodle is now my new go-to spot for Boat Noodles, I will certainly be back for more. Despite how delicious these noodles were, they will not be taking pho's treasured place in my life. I don't think Boat Noodles are a Thai alternative to Pho, however, they are a great option should Pho not be available. I have room in my heart and my stomach for both.