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What Is Rat Na?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Most every culture has dishes that marry local meats, with noodles and vegetables for quick-but-fortifying one-bowl meals. In Southeast Asia, a familiar Thai recipe following this mold is called rat na, combining fried rice noodles with any number of proteins and a few choice vegetables. To top it off, a distinctive Thailand-inspired sauce slightly softens the toughened noodles and imbues the meal with hints of tapioca, soy, seafood and sugar.

Rat na can use a range of meats, but typically just one per dish and not a medley. Shrimp, crab, oyster, chicken, beef and pork varieties are common. Except for the shrimp, these meats are typically sliced thin, pounded with a meat hammer, and then marinated for at least 15 minutes or at most overnight in the refrigerator. The marinades can vary, but common ingredients are oil, sweet soy, tapioca powder, thickened fish stock, onion, garlic, salt and pepper.

Wide rice noodles are most often used in rat na, though thin varieties would not be uncommon. They are soaked for a half-hour in water and then boiled until softened. The noodles are then tossed with some soy and fried in oil until lightly crispy and brown. Chefs often avoid frying too many noodles in the pan at once, which reportedly promotes clumping. When the noodles all are fried and drying on a paper towel, the hot, oiled pan is then ready to receive the rest of the dish's ingredients.

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Vegetables are used sparingly in the dish, primarily to add color. Broccoli is the most common choice, but beans, kale and onions might be added to th mix, which is sauteed in garlic-infused oil. When the vegetables are nearly finished, the marinated meat joins the group along with the marinade, some more soy, stock, fish and/or oyster sauce, sugar and more tapioca. Once all the ingredients are cooked through and tender, the noodles are placed on the plate, followed by the meat and vegetable stir-fry as well as the sauce. The noodles will soften slowly as the dish is eaten, much like cereal does in milk.

The neighboring country of Laos has a similar version of rat na, called lard na. This also is a fried noodle dish with meat, vegetables and a soy-tinged fish and chicken broth. When the sauce is left out, the resulting meat and vegetable medley is often called pad si ew, which like rat na is a popular street food in both Laos and Thailand.

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