16 February 2019
Samsen serves the most delightful Wagyu beef boat noodles with a soup base that blows the mind. Photo: Facebook/Samsen
Samsen serves the most delightful Wagyu beef boat noodles with a soup base that blows the mind. Photo: Facebook/Samsen

A taste of Thailand in a cozy corner of Wan Chai

Some days ago, I had lunch with my friend at a Thai restaurant, where the head chef is a Westerner and most of the waiting staff are Thais.

Situated on Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, Samsen (泰麵) is almost inconspicuous with only a small signboard to mark its presence.

But my friend assured me diners queue up dutifully outside every evening, starting from 6 p.m., implying that going there would be worth our while.

Samsen has five set options on the lunch menu. We ordered rice and noodles.

Fried rice with minced meat, egg and spices came first. The pan-fried egg had a crispy outer layer encapsulating a silky tender egg white and yolk inside.

The dish was quite delicious, but it was not really special.

Then came the Wagyu beef boat noodles, which was outstanding.

I think the word “noodles” does not give justice to the food.

The rice noodles were neither broad nor thin, but surely looked like pad Thai. The threads had a chewier texture and carried a strong fragrance of rice.

It’s the kind I had never tried before.

The Thai staffers told me the noodles were sen-lek, freshly imported from Thailand daily.

The soup base was cloudy with a dark brown color, which was not appealing to the sight.

But it really blew my mind when I took a sip. It was so intense with an abundance of flavors.

The waiter said it was simmered in pig’s blood and bones for hours. It also had seafood, including shrimp shells, I guess.

Such an impressive, complex soup reminds me of assam laksa from Penang.

Along with sen-lek were strips of Wagyu beef, braised beef chunks and meatballs. Most importantly, it had pieces of deep-fried pork lard and pork rind.

I have been to many Thai restaurants before, but few left me with an impression similar to what I had at Samsen.

Its sen-lek is so unique I highly recommend you try it.

My friend helped me do some snooping around on Samsen’s foreign-looking chef. We tried Facebook.

“He pursued cookery in France and then Thai cuisine in Thailand. He was formerly the chef at Chachawan in Sheung Wan,” my friend read aloud from his smartphone.

I wish there will also be a renowned Western chef doing Cantonese cuisine. That would surely create a splash in the local dining circuit.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 8.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist; art, culture and food critic

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