Why NYC’s Pure Thai Cookhouse Makes a Mean Dry Noodle

A third-generation noodle maker brings a special twist to crab and pork dry noodles.

5 min read

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Year-round, locals and travelers alike flock to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand’s Ratchaburi province, about an hour southwest of Bangkok. Here, narrow wooden boats drift through crowded canals. Hawkers in straw hats sell a kaleidoscopic array of tropical fruit, novelty “I was here” t-shirts, and distinctive prepared dishes that go well beyond the familiar pad thai. It is these dishes that serve as the inspiration for David and Vanida Bank’s Pure Thai Cookhouse, which opened in 2010 on New York City’s Upper West Side. But one dish in particular stands out: ba mee haeng, a dry noodle dish with slow-roasted pork and steamed crab meat, known as Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles on the Pure Thai menu. Brothless and deeply brilliant, it has all the tenets of Thai cooking: salty, sour, and sweet. 

The Banks’ love for the dish goes way back. Both grew up around Ratchaburi and officially met at a high school party. But David already knew of Vanida — well, at least of her family’s local, now-80-year-old HungZong Noodle shop and their famous ba mee (Chinese-style egg noodles). “School was close to this noodle shop, and her [Vanida’s] uncle sold noodles [from HungZong] in my cafeteria,” David explains. 


Vanida’s childhood bedroom was situated just above that shop and her family has crafted ba mee in Ratchaburi for generations. Her grandfather was a rice farmer who emigrated to Thailand from Southeastern China in the 1950s, bringing his Chinese food heritage with him. He began selling noodles out of a cart in the rice field off-season (May-November). Vanida’s father was only four when the family moved; by age 18 he helped expand his father’s noodle cart to a full-blown restaurant. 

Years later, as Vanida’s father seesawed the noodle dough with a bamboo stick, he’d rap the ceiling to wake her up to help. Over time, her family adjusted their cooking with Thai ingredients, adding sweet palm sugar syrup, savory fish sauce, sour and spicy chile vinegar, and a salty turnip/daikon condiment called tang chai/huah chai bpoh to their signature noodle dish. 


Fast forward to 1996: David moved to New York City in hopes of becoming a chef like he saw on TV — something that didn’t feel possible in Thailand at the time — with Vanida following him in 1998. They delved into the NYC food scene and fell in love with the spirit of innovation there. When they opened Pure Thai, the Banks made a few small innovations of their own, like the small pile of salty gark moo, aka crispy pig skin, on top of their coveted crab and pork noodles. 

But there’s one aspect of the dish they didn’t want to mess with: the family noodle recipe, which includes a blend of high protein flours for the right bite and fresh eggs (rather than pasteurized or powdered) for a lighter, fluffier noodle. In keeping with tradition, David and Vanida initially set out to make ba mee by hand, but the task became too laborious to keep up with demand — they began selling out of the 40 portions they could make by hand every day. So they invested in a Yamato noodle machine, which is typically used to make ramen, and never looked back. Now, rather than spending several hours hand-making a few dozen portions, they can make around 60 portions in under an hour. 


The noodle machine was such a profitable upgrade that they even influenced Vanida’s family to convert HungZong as well. They bought a much larger Yamato machine and now serve 800-1,000 portions a day (more than double what they were serving pre-Yamato) at their two locations in Ratchaburi. The original HungZong is in the same location as it was 80 years ago, and Vanida’s mom currently runs it. 

“She is always telling her customers that if they ever go to NYC, to visit her daughter’s shop,” says David. “We also have multiple customers going to Thailand and want to know the location of the original.” Either way, there’s a bowl of delicious Ratchaburi noodles waiting for you.


  • Photography: Michael Harlan Turkell