This Thai rad na gai recipe for charred rice noodles with chicken and gravy makes a Thai-Chinese street food dish that, like pad kra pao, is more popular with Thais than the more famous pad Thai. This recipe, adapted from chef David Thompson’s Thai Street Food cookbook, makes a rad na that tastes exactly like our Bangkok favourite.
Pad Thai might be the most popular Thai dish amongst travellers to Thailand or at least the most popular Thai street food dish. Massaman curry is frequently named as the most popular Thai dish amongst foreigners, however, it’s mainly eaten in Thai restaurants in Thailand. Rad na gai must be one of the most popular with Thais, especially in Bangkok.
The most popular Thai street food dish amongst Thais is arguably Thai pad kra pao, a breakfast, mid-morning ‘snack’ or lunch dish beloved by everyone from office workers to taxi drivers. However, we reckon this Thai rad na gai recipe for charred rice noodles with chicken and gravy makes a dish that’s not too far behind pad kra pao when it comes to local favourites.
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Thai Rad Na Gai Recipe for Charred Rice Noodles with Chicken and Gravy
This recipe, which we’ve adapted from David Thompson’s Thai Street Food cookbook, for Thai rad na gai – also spelt raat nar gai, laat nar gai, and lad na gai – consists of smoky stir-fried rice noodles that are topped with stir-fried chicken and gravy; ‘rad na’ means ‘on top’ and ‘gai’ means ‘chicken’ – and while we’re using chicken in this case, this dish can also be made with pork or beef.
We’d been travelling to Thailand and eating its famous street food for almost a decade for leisure and work – mainly writing on the country for guidebooks and websites – before we even tried Thai rad na gai.
Like most foreign visitors, when we wanted a quick bite to eat on the street, we’d tuck into pad Thai or pad kra pao, and I’ve no idea why. When we discovered rad na gai, in the most unexpected of places, it was love at first bite for me.
We’d spent a sweaty day pounding the pavements in Bangkok’s old town, putting POIs (points of interest) on maps for a new first edition travel guidebook we were writing, and having missed our boat along the canal back up to Sukhumvit, we decided to look for a bite to eat until the next boat.
Our nose drew us to a simple food stall outside the 7-Eleven by the dock, where smoke was rising from a wok, and local workers were enjoying plates of these charred rice noodles with stir-fried chicken, Chinese greens and a gravy. Starving, we ordered two plates, and were blown away.
David Thompson’s Thai rad na gai recipe makes the closest version we’ve ever had to those smoky stir-fried rice noodles. Here’s the chef’s recipe, with a few little tweaks.
Just a few tips for making this Thai rad na gai recipe for stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and gravy.
Tips for Making this Thai Rad Na Gai Recipe for Charred Rice Noodles with Chicken and Gravy
Just a couple of quick tips for making this Thai rad na gai recipe for stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and gravy as it’s really very easy and comes together in no time.
Make sure to use a seasoned carbon steel wok for charring the noodles. If the noodles start to stick, do splash a little cooking oil into the wok. I find that fresh rice noodles stick more to the wok than reconstituted dried noodles.
It’s often easier to just throw the separated fresh noodles into the wok and give them a quick stir-fry than charring them in the way that the chef suggests, but please try the way the recipe calls for first, especially if using dried noodles.
David recommends pouring the gravy over the noodles and the dish is called ‘rad na’ after all, which means ‘on top’, because you’re meant to pour the gravy, stir-fried chicken and Chinese greens over the noodles.
However, as you’ll see in our Thai rad na gai recipe, below, I’ve provided an alternative suggestion, and that’s to return the charred noodles to the wok and combine them with the chicken, Chinese greens and gravy to coat the noodles completely.
This results in the noodles swimming in less gravy, but we think the dish is so much more delicious when the noodles are cloaked in gravy.
Thai Rad Na Gai Recipe for Charred Rice Noodles with Chicken and Gravy
- 200 g fresh wide rice noodles
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce optional
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- Pinch of salt
- 200 g chicken breast fillet cut into 2-bite pieces
- 1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 200 gm young Chinese broccoli or bok choy cut into 3cm lengths
- 1 tbsp tapioca flour mixed to a slurry with 2 tbsp boiling water
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- chillies steeped in vinegar
- fish sauce
- chilli flakes
- chilli sauce
- Separate the noodles. If you’ve bought fresh steamed rice noodles, rub them with the dark soy sauce. If they’ve been refrigerated they may be stiff, so leave them on the kitchen bench at room temperature to soften a little.
- Heat a dry wok and spread the noodles over its surface, allowing them to soften, brown and char until they even appear burnt in parts, before lifting and turning the noodles. If the noodles stick to the wok, add a little oil. If they stick to each other, they are well and truly ready. Once the noodles are done, divide them between two bowls and cover with a clean tea towel to keep them warm.
- In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and salt, and fry it in oil in the same wok (wiped clean with a paper towel) until fragrant, then add the chicken and fry until sealed.
- Add the yellow bean sauce and fry for a minute, then add the pepper and chicken stock, bring to the boil, then add the sugar and Chinese broccoli or bok choy, and turn the heat down.
- Simmer the chicken until cooked and the broccoli or bok choy have wilted, then pour in the tapioca slurry, and stir constantly until the sauce thickens to a gravy-like consistency, and is almost translucent and “pleasingly glutinous” as David Thompson says.
- Add the light soy and fish sauce, and taste – it should be “salty, sweet and smoky” – and adjust the seasoning to your palate.
- To plate, you could pour the chicken gravy over the noodles, or return the noodles to the wok and combine well so that the gravy coats the noodles, then divide between the bowls.
- Sprinkle with white pepper and serve with fish sauce, white sugar, roasted chilli powder and sliced chillies steeped in vinegar.
Please do let us know if you make this Thai rad na gai recipe for stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and gravy as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.