Mee gati is a Thai noodle dish featuring two main components. First are the pinkish orange rice vermicalli noodles with garlic chives and bean sprouts. On their own these noodles aren't much to celebrate. The savour of this dish comes from the second component, which is a rich coconut gravy with chunks of tofu and faux pork. Put together, with a squeeze of lime to cut through the fatty coconut milk, mee gati cultivates devotion from its consumer. This is a dish worthy of ranking alongside that other Thai noodle dish everyone loves. You know the one I mean.
Indeed, thanks to state backed gastrodiplomacy projects and consumer demand, when most people think of noodles and Thai food pad thai typically registers before all else. There are, however, so many more noodle dishes hailing from Thailand that are also worth your time to learn. Add this vegan mee gati recipe to your dinner rota and you won't be disappointed.
I don't know very much about the history of mee kati dish other than it has fallen out of favour and the method of preparation has shifted over time, specifically with regards to the pink(ish) colouring of the completed noodles. Once upon a time, and still today in some cases, this was achieved with shrimp tomalley. Now even nonvegan recipes often opt for tomato and/or fermented red tofu as an alternative to achieve the colour.
Sometimes mee gati are referred to as pink noodles, but they are more orange on the colour spectrum. According to Leela Punyaratabandhu, in her cookbook Bangkok, you can still find mee gati for sale by some Bangkok vendors but the result is typically disappointing due to their preference for pink food colouring. Based on my experience with similarly flourescent yentafo noodles (the jarred sauces and those used by many Thai street vendors tend to favour dye over flavour) this comes as no surprise. I thus now avoid any bright pink savoury street foods in Thailand. I have no aversion to artificual colours, but I don't like crummy food.
Gati versus kati
The difference betwen Thai and Lao mee gati
Like many dishes in this and other regions of the world, there are many variations. The version of this recipe I'm providing in this post is a Thai mee kati recipe, but there is a version from Laos as well.
From what I have found both from articles and recipes online as well as from cookbooks, the differences between these two dishes of the same name are great enough to render them two distinct concepts.
- Lao mee gati is served in a more souplike presentation, whereas Thai mee gati is served with a gravy. You can look at Google image results for Lao mee kati vs Thai mee kati to see what I mean.
- Thai mee gati does not contain peanuts.
- Lao mee kati contains red curry paste, but the Thai version does not.
The version from Laos appears to be served in some parts of Northeastern Thailand, which is unsurprising given the majority population here is ethnically Lao. There is rumour of a Thai influenced Vietnamese version of mee gati as well.
Vegan Mee Gati หมี่กะทิ – Thai rice noodles with coconut gravy
- 180 millilitres coconut milk, divided ¾ US cup. See notes1
- 30 grams roughly chopped shallots ¼ cup
- 1 tablespoon tao jeow (fermented soybean paste) See notes2
- 1 tablespoon thin soy sauce See notes3
- 1 tablespoon tamarind liquid See notes4
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon toasted chilli powder (prik bon) See notes5
- Pinch salt
- 75 grams about ½ cup small diced extra firm tofu
- 40-50 grams Omnipork mince optional
- 50 grams thin rice vermicelli (sen mee) soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
- 1 tablespoon red fermented tofu and its liquid See notes6
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 60 millilitres coconut milk ¼ cup
- 45 millilitres unsalted stock, water, or coconut milk 3 tablespoons
- ⅓-½ cup bean sprouts
- 2-3 stems garlic chives cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 slice Lime
- Extra prik bon, garlic chives, and/or bean sprouts for serving (optional)
To make the sauce
- Add 120 millilitres (½ cup) of the coconut milk to a saucepan or frying pan. Heat to medium for a few minutes, stirring often, until you start to see some oil separating from the milk. If this doesn’t happen carry on anyway. Chuck the shallots and the tao jeow in the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in soy sauce, tamarind liquid, palm sugar, prik bon, and salt. After palm sugar has dissolved (15-20 seconds), add the additional 60 millilitres (¼ cup) coconut milk, tofu, and Omnipork (if using) and. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off hob and remove pan from heat.
To make the noodles
- Drain the noodles and snip once or twice with kitchen sheers (optional, but this reduces the chance of flinging noodles across your face and onto your likely nearby cat while eating).
- Mash the red fermented tofu and liquid together with the tomato paste in a small bowl. Add the coconut milk and water (or stock or more coconut milk, your choice) to a wok or large frying pan. Tip the mash in and stir through. Bring this mixture to the boil. Once it boils, add your drained noodles. Knock the heat back to medium and stir fry the noodles for a few minutes until all of the liquid is soaked up.
- Once the noodles have absorbed the liquid, add the bean sprouts and garlic chives. Quickly flip through and turn off the heat. Remove wok from heat to a cool surface. Leave the noodles to rest for about 5 minutes.
- Reheat the coconut gravy if it’s gone cold. Tip the gravy into a small cup or bowl. Plate the noodles. Set the gravy bowl alongside. Place the lime, extra garlic chives and bean sprouts, and the prik bon around the noodles.
- Or, if you don’t want the faff of a pretty plate, pour the gravy straight over the noodles, top with the veg, squeeze some lime over, and voilà, dinner is served.
- For coconut milk I use Aroy-D brand. Do not use low fat coconut milk.
- You can buy tao jeow in East Asian markets. This is what you're looking for.
- Different Asian countries employ different styles of soy sauce. I recommend thin soy sauce for Thai recipes, but failing that you can use what you have to hand.
- I recommend you make tamarind water/concentrate yourself rather than buy it premade from supermarkets, but you should use whatever is most convenient to you.
- You can buy prik bon from Thai grocers or make it yourself. Failing that, use chilli flakes.
- Fermented tofu comes in both red and white varities, and you will find them in any East Asian market. For the red style, look for ceramic containers.