1/1-3 St Johns Avenue
Springvale VIC 3171
+61 3 9546 0599
I love noodle soups. Tonkotsu ramen, beef and brisket pho, curry laksa, soto ayam – you name it, I’ll slurp it til the cows come home. Obviously, they’re an ideal meal to enjoy during the winter months but I’ve been known to enjoy a piping hot bowl of noodle soup when it’s humid and 35 degrees outside. Another type of noodle soup that I’ve recently added to my list is the Thai boat noodle.
So, what are boat noodles and why the hell are they called that? Historically, this dish was served along Bangkok’s canals. Back in the day, the street seller would paddle his this dish from his boat; today, they’re rarely sold on the water itself but rather in riverside stalls. Also known as kuaitiao ruea, this dish boasts a deep dark broth flavoured with dark soy sauce, pickled bean curd and spices as well as pork and/or beef bones. Traditionally, the cook will also add beef blood in there for extra texture and depth, though not a lot of places in Melbourne seem to do that.
I have my preferred places in Melbourne to eat boat noodles, with Jinda Thai and Soi 38 being firm favourites. I am also aware that a handful of Thai restaurants serving boat noodles existed in Springvale and when my friend Thanh told me about Sabb Der Thai being his favourite place to grab this dish, I knew I had to try it. So after a meeting with my accountant in Noble Park, I met up with Thanh for some boat noodle goodness.
We ordered a bowl of beef boat noodles and a plate of som tum (papaya salad) to share. You might be thinking: ‘Man, you guys are tight asses! Sharing a bowl of boat noodles between two?’ Hah! Well, what if we told you we had a small bowl of pho each at Pho Hung Vuong 2 and shared a banh mi before coming here? Uh huh.
I’m not normally a fan of som tum but Thanh insisted that I gave this one a go – after all, som tum is one of Sabb Der Thai’s signature dishes. I decided that their version was delicious: light, refreshing and dammit, very very spicy! Thank goodness for my glass of milk tea, even though it was a bit on the sickly sweet side. We ordered the salted crab version of the som yum but you can also choose from several other renditions, including their dried shrimp one.
Sabb Der Thai’s other go-to dish is obviously their boat noodles. You can choose from about five different noodles (we chose rice stick noodles) and go duck, beef or one of several versions of pork. We chose beef and it came topped with beef slices, braised beef pieces and beef balls.
After my first spoonful of soup, I can see why Thanh goes to Sabb Der Thai pretty much every week. The broth was addictively tasty – and they added just a little bit of blood in it to create depth, but not so much that you get that metallic aftertaste (which I don’t really like). My only mistake was not coming here on an empty stomach as I would have definitely been down for smashing an entire bowl rather than half a bowl!
After this visit, I can now add Sabb Der Thai to my list of places to get boat noodles in Melbourne. Next time, I’ll give the duck version a go as well as try their tom yum pork noodle soup. The only problem I have with Sabb Der Thai is that it’s not exactly easy to get to from my (parents’) neck of the woods, let alone from Melbourne’s west. Thus, I’ll keep going to either Soi 38 or Jinda purely based on convenience alone. That said, I will definitely swing by Sabb Der Thai the next time I’m visiting my accountant – I just need to remember to save my banh mi for later.