The Thai/Lao word for glass noodles is “woonsen.” When I cook using this ingredient or see recipes online, I instantly think of a white poodle mix with the same name and the most delicious seafood restaurant in the world (my unprofessional, humble opinion).
Woonsen (the food) smells like Thai basil, fish sauce, garlic, spices, and grilled tiger prawn.
Woonsen (the dog) smells like fresh linen or maybe Downy dryer sheets.
Seriously. I have never met a dog that smelled so nice. I have definitely met extremely clean dogs but inevitably they all still have that essential canine aroma. Not Woonsen. You could take a good, deep whiff – right down to the skin beneath those luxurious, curly white locks – and you might close your eyes and imagine a pile of fresh sheets just pulled from the clothesline.
Woonsen belonged to a friend of my father’s. Ah Noot picked us up from the Bangkok airport the day we left Chiang Mai. She would take us back there for our international flight later that evening but insisted it would be a travesty to visit Thailand without proper seafood freshly caught from the Gulf.
We drove for over an hour to get to Chonburi. Why I don’t have photos from this last leg of our 3-month adventure, I will never know. It probably has something to do with my awful camera at the time. When we finally arrived at this highly touted restaurant, the first thing I noticed were the monkeys.
Rhesus macaques, dozens of them, going through garbage and begging at the feet of tourists.
As we got out of the car, Ah Noot told us to hold Woonsen tightly so the macaques wouldn’t take him away. She was completely serious.
The dining area was entirely al fresco, with a view of the water. Ah Noot did all the ordering while we watched a monkey reach from the roof of the kitchen to grab a mango slice from one of the cooks. I pushed aside everything I know about zoonotic diseases and decided to live dangerously.
The food was amazing. We feasted on pad woonsen goong (stir fried glass noodles with giant prawns), curried crabs, som tam (spicy papaya salad), grilled tiger prawns with nam prik (spicy dipping sauce), and sticky rice. All the seafood was freshly caught, probably right off the dock. There were so many crabs left over that we took it to go and ate them again just before we had to leave for the airport.
It was one of the best ways I can think of to spend your last few hours in Thailand.
I was thinking of Woonsen and how he smelled of clean linen the entire time I tried to recreate this recipe. There are many versions, such as the one created by Mademoiselle Gourmande.
Pad Woonsen Goong
What You Need:
10 oz clear glass noodles
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 lb shrimp (or a few giant prawns, if you can get them)
1 cup green onion, cut diagonally into 2 inch pieces
1/4 cup Thai basil, whole leaves
1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
Dried chili flakes
What You Do:
1. Soak noodles in warm water.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in fish sauce and vinegar. Add black pepper and chili flakes.
3. Heat oils in wok.
4. Strain noodles. Add to the wok.
5. Toss noodles with fish sauce mixture. You may need to add a little water to fully cook the noodles if they are still firm.
6. Make a well in the center of the noodles. Scramble eggs until mostly done. Add shrimp. Cook until light pink and just starting to curl.
7. Add green onions, sprouts, and basil. Turn off heat, toss well.