At the Eight Boat Noodle chain of restaurants, the tables pile high with empty soup noodle bowls. The bowls are small – each holding just a few spoonfuls of soup, a mouthful of thin rice noodles, a single meatball and a tiny morsel of beef or pork – so it can take half a dozen or more to satisfy a healthy appetite.
The founder of the stylish chain, Boun “Peter” Yousrin, 29, said he had adopted the small bowls concept from Malaysia after seeing it prove wildly popular there.
“The Thai boat noodle trend is booming over there,” he said.
Because each bowl is quite cheap – only 2,500 riel – customers with smaller appetites only have to pay for as much as they want.
However, Yousrin said the novelty factor was the main draw.
“People challenge each other how many bowls they can eat and post photos of all of them on Instagram,” he said, adding that he had plans to hold an eating challenge at some point in the future.
The Thai-style boat noodle soup – originally served from boats on Bangkok’s canals – is tasty too. It’s soy sauce-based, darker and stronger in flavour than traditional Cambodian noodle soup but still quite sweet. Cow or pig’s blood can be added as a seasoning on request.
“We use only natural ingredients – star anise, galangal, lemongrass. No MSG,” said Yousrin.
At the moment, Eight Boat Noodles’ menu consists solely of the boat noodle soup with pork or beef, but Yousrin has plans to add more dishes.
“We’re going to introduce tom yum soup and maybe a meatball salad,” he said.
Even with just two noodle soup varieties, the small bowls are already proving extremely popular.
Seven Eight Boat Noodle outlets – most run by franchisees – have opened since April and more are planned to open in the coming months.
How many restaurants will Yousrin want before he’s had enough?
“In total, we want to open about 20 Eight Boat Noodle restaurants – including in other provinces,” he said.
Eight Boat Noodle has outlets at BKK1, Koh Pich, Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, Teuk Thla, Kromourn Sor, Stung Meanchey and Santhormuk Tel: 017 888 003. Web: facebook.com/eightboatnoodle.