Our tuk tuk driver had pulled over to the side of the road and was now staring back at us expectantly, waiting for an answer.
Because the last ten minutes of the ride had been spent much of the same way, but with questions more along the lines of “How do you put an elephant in the fridge?” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
Finally, Dan sputtered, “Uh…yeah? Well…no…”
“Do you want to?”
And off we went down the streets of Battambang.
We pulled up to the back of a house where a woman sat on a bamboo deck amidst various bowls and baskets. She was repeatedly dipping her hands into a bowl of soapy water, pulling out wet white strings and folding them neatly into a banana leaf lining.
What we were looking at was effectively a homespun noodle making factory, and as she and her husband silently continued to work, our tuk tuk driver ‘David’ explained to us the process of making fresh rice noodles.
The first step is to grind the rice into meal. Then you want to strain the meal, clean it, and put it into bags and compress it. The next step is to cook it, and once cooked, to pound the meal until it’s sticky. Then? Knead the meal by hand until it’s even stickier.
Strain the sticky meal through a press into the noodle ‘shape’ that we’re familiar with (above), and then hand wash the noodles – a process with multiple bowls with varying types (or levels perhaps) of soap. Finally, rinse the noodles one last time, and fold.
The couple that we were fortunate to see has been doing this for years (I can’t recall now but I would venture to guesstimate at at least two decades), and would originally go to the local market in Battambang to sell it.
However, the quality of their noodles was so consistently high, that eventually restaurants and other re-sellers (like street vendors) that had become loyal customers began coming to them directly.
They now no longer have to go to the market to sell their stock of noodles but receive daily orders which they fulfill without having to leave the house.
As they seem to supply most of the customers in the area, I’m not sure how they ever sleep – the couple can sell up to a 100 kilograms of rice noodles a day!