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Jun 11, 2011 10:28 AM

Hamburg - Extra spicy experience at Sala Thai

What's better than finding a good Thai restaurant in the middle of Hamburg? It's probably having a Thai friend along who can communicate with the restaurant staff and ask specifically for the food to be prepared to suit "Thai tastes", not the Euro-trashed version they churn out for their local clientele.

We practically got the full Thai chilli blast:
- Thai appetisers were perhaps the only non-spicy items to hit our table that evening: deep-fried minced pork on toasts, prawn-filled spring rolls, crispy noodles wrapped around minced pork-prawn balls.
- the stir-fried chicken with green Thai peppercorns, the Scoville count further scaled with the addition of prik kee noo (bird's eye chillis) and sliced red & green chillis, was totally, mind-blowingly delicious!
- beef green curry (gaeng kaew wan neau) was supplemented with generous slivers of green & red chillis on top. Coconut creme came out of a can, not fresh - but we're in Northern Europe, so I guess we have to make do with that;
- Yam woonsen - the mung bean noodle salad came with pork and very fresh prawns. The salad was bright red with all the red chilli puree used to dress it, together with strong nam pla (fish sauce) & more prik kee noo. It was hellishly good;
- Som tum was made using grated carrots instead of hard-to-procure green papayas here, but was fantastic nonetheless. The waitresses were from Isaan province in Thailand, and they told us the chef who prepared the som tum was, too - and som tum is a regional specialty of Isaan province;
- Grilled beef with raw onions, chillis, toasted ground rice & parsley dressing was passable;
- Desserts were mainly ice-cream - avoid the coconut (ka-ti) ice-cream. It tasted of powdered coconut (yeck) & coconut slivers used were obviously frozen then thawed before serving. Bland & tasteless.

Overall, great, great chilli-hot Thai meal - as authentic as it can get in Germany, perhaps.

Address details
Sala Thai
Brandsende 6
20095 Hamburg
Tel: 040 335009

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  1. Return visit to Sala Thai this evening, just over a year since my last dinner here - bustling half-full restaurant on a Monday evening - impressive!

    What we had:
    - Sala Thai house appetiser platter which consisted of crisp-fried spring rolls, shrimp rolls, prawn toasts, minced chicken patties and fish cakes, served with a sweet chilli dip. Great start to the meal;
    - Chicken green curry (Gaeng Kaew Wan Gai) was authentic to a "t", down to the use of pea eggplants ("ma khea phuong") & liberal sprinkling of "nam pla" (Thai fish sauce);
    - Stir-fried slivers of beef with basil leaves, tomatoes, capsicums and onions, flavored with oyster sauce. This dish was a typical Thai-Chinese stir-fry. Authentic - though I'd never really liked beef cooked the Thai way - tend to be overcooked and hard/dry;
    - Egg fried rice - perfect complement to the green curry and beef stir-fry.

    Thai iced tea was not fragrant enough, lacked the milkiness and was also way too sweet - avoid!

    10 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      Oh my knees! My ankles!

      The food looks good. Did you have your Thai friend in tow this time as well?

      You may not know for sure but I imagine there must be local sources of fresh Thai/SE Asian/Chinese/Japanese produce in a metropolitan place like Hamburg - yet pea eggplants would seem just a bit more "specialized", so to speak. Would those be "generally available" in Hamburg or does the restaurant grow their own, say?

      How about the general availability of East and SE Asian produce in Germany?

      (linguafood - if you are reading this - any comments from you too?)

      1. re: huiray

        I thought Asian groceries were extremely difficult to come by in Hamburg, unlike the more cosmopolitan Berlin. Not sure how SalaThai procured their fresh produce - I should've asked, but don't fancy going back there again, since I'm reserving my remaining few evenings here for other restaurants I'd not tried.

        Nope, no Thai colleague thistime.

        1. re: huiray

          Curiousity got the better of me - I did go back to Sala Thai for dinner this evening, but mainly to chat with the restaurant manager on where he got his fresh supplies from - the odd linguistic combination of my schoolboy German and rudimentary Thai really did work. The manager explained that the restaurant's supplies were ordered via a special Asian groceries supplier, and stuff such as pea eggplants, kaffir lime leaves, etc., were all imported fresh from Thailand.

          I originally wanted to dine at the Alt-Hamburger Aalspeicher at Deichstraße 43. I did go all the way there, stood right in front of the door of the restaurant, looked at the menu (mainly north German staples, including Labskaus, which I just had for lunch earlier in the day). Suddenly, I hankered for something spicy, so Sala Thai it is.

          1. re: klyeoh

            Panaeng chicken curry and "po pia tod" (Thai-style spring rolls) this evening:

            1. re: klyeoh

              Heh. Perhaps the image of the "pink mash" you had for lunch had a large effect on your dinner decision.

              How was the food this time?

              Interesting info about where they get their produce from. Thanks for finding that out. One presumes that importer must also supply other "Asian" restaurants there or even in the region.

              1. re: huiray

                Yep, you're right - the lunch thang did it for me. Alt-Hamburger Aalspeicher was rated in Michelin Germany, located in a 16th-century building which had always functioned as a restaurant, albeit different ones through the centuries, and had an outdoor terrace by the river with a to-die for view (see pic I snapped yesterday evening). But 2 weeks of Germanic meals (especially lunches with local colleagues) made me crave for something different in the evenings. I quite liked the Labskaus & aahlsuppe, but not always.

                Sala Thai has always been pretty consistent in its cooking - it's really *ordinary* compared to Thai restaurants you get in South-East Asia, but here, it really came across as pretty special. The ingredients are not cheap, so a portion of green curry, enough to serve one-two persons, is priced at EUR20.

                I guess the specialty food importer must be making a bundle just supplying all these stuff to the restaurateurs. I once had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Heidelberg, Germany - that must have been 12 years ago already. The proprietress turned out to be Chinese-Malaysian who came from Cheras, KL. She'd lived in Germany for so long, she couldn't speak English anymore, but only German & Cantonese. I only spoke rudimentary Cantonese but we hit it off right away. She told me that her husband, who's Vietnamese (away on a business trip at the time) imported foodstuffs, crockery and furniture from Thailand, to supply to Asian restaurants, not just to those in the Baden-Wurrtemberg region, but other parts of Germany. I guess there are many of these businessmen who'd carved a niche out for themselves.

        2. re: klyeoh

          next time yr in hamburg you should go to this tiny thai place my friend took us to... it looks like its at approx Große Freiheit 37. you'll see a sign saying 'thai paradies' which (i think?) is for the strip club, but next to it is a tiny restaurant without a sign. there one lady serving and one lady cooking, and everything we had was really good and really spicy... som tum thai, larb pla, larb moo, yam moon sen..

          1. re: t_g

            Thanks, t_g, I'll definitely keep this in mind for my next Hamburg visit.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Try Good Time in Berlin when you're back next time -- they also get those pea eggplants in their dishes. I'd never seen them before, nor have I encountered them at any other Thai restaurants I've visited both in Germany and the US.