Freelance writer and blogger from Sydney (ex-Melbourne). Avid foodie and traveller. Loves dogs.
Published July 17th 2017
For authentic Thai boat noodles in Springvale
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. Best of all, they're the perfect meal to enjoy during winter. 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 are they called that? History shows this dish was served along Bangkok's canals. Back in the day, the street seller would paddle 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 told me about Sabb Der Thai being his favourite place to grab this dish, I knew I had to try it.
At Sabb Der Thai, we ordered a bowl of beef boat noodles and a plate of som tum (spicy papaya salad) to share. I'm not normally a fan of som tum but my friend insisted that I give 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 very, very spicy! We ordered the salted crab version but you can also choose from several other renditions, including their dried shrimp one.
Sabb Der Thai: Beef boat noodle soup ($11.50), salted crab som tum ($9) and Thai iced milk tea ($4)
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 my friend 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.