Fans of small portions and anyone hoping to hit the elusive $500 per month budget for living in Chiang Mai should check out ก๋วยเตี๋ยว 3 บาท Kuay Tiao 3 Baht – “3 Baht Noodles”. As the name suggests, a bowl of noodles goes for just 3 baht, which is less than 10 cents in American money. You can’t exactly expect a filling meal for under a dime—even in Southeast Asia—so I’d recommend starting off by ordering a minimum of 4 bowls. I ended up eating 9 bowls on my visit.
The restaurant doesn’t have any English in their signs or menus, so if you don’t speak or read Thai you might have a little difficulty. It’s just another example of why it’s a good idea to learn Thai if you plan to stay in the country for any length of time.
For the standard 3 baht bowl of noodles you have different options for the broth, noodles, and meat. The soup can be either nam-sai “clear broth” or nam-tok (a blood-based broth). The noodles can be sen-lek “thin”, sen-yai “wide”, or sen-mii-khao “white noodles”. As for the meat, you have a choice of muu “pork”, or nuea “beef”.
If, like me, you happen to be vegetarian, the staff can also accommodate even though they don’t specifically list vegetarian options on the menu. You just have to ask for nam-sai mang-sa-wi-rat “clear broth vegetarian” with whichever type of noodle you prefer. (Check out this post for more tips on getting veggie food at any restaurant in Thailand.)
They also have “yellow noodles” for 10 baht and khao soi for 20 baht—the price has gone up since the menu was printed. Also slightly more expensive are iced beverages such as coffee, tea, and oliang (a kind of sweet black coffee), which are now 5 baht per glass rather than the 3 baht advertised on the menu. Rounding out the offerings at 3 Baht Noodles are satay and ancient ice cream.
The one item that you can bet will not go up in price is a standard bowl of noodles. They’ve kind of locked themselves into a price point with the name of the shop. So their only real option to stay profitable is to serve their signature dish in tiny portions. The staff will dutifully bring out all your bowls of noodles and lay them out on the table before you.
It’s all a little absurd since each bowl contains barely a mouthful of noodles. The most practical way to eat them is to empty the contents of 3 or 4 bowls together into one bowl. That way you can add the chili pepper and other seasonings more evenly and feel like you’re getting a real meal. But actually, for 3 baht the standard noodle bowls are a pretty good deal because you also get 2 meatballs and a piece of either pork or beef.
The restaurant became famous for a funny reason a few months back. Then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra paid a visit to the restaurant, which is in her hometown. As you can see in the clip below, she stumbled when getting out of her van and twisted her ankle, for which she later had to wear an ankle brace and was wheeled around in a wheelchair for several days. The crazy part of the story is that people who used the license plate number of the van to pick the next day’s lottery tickets ended up hitting the jackpot.
The 3 Baht Noodle restaurant is located on the east side of Chiang Mai, about halfway between the river and the superhighway.