Saew: Not just another hole in the wall

COCONUTS HOT SPOT — How does a noodle place as ordinary-looking as Saew withstand the cost of sustaining itself in one of the most expensive zones along Sukhumvit? Being two-generations old and now surrounded by a myriad of newly opened, extravagant dining spots, Saew is a little more than a hole in the wall – unknown to many of today’s Sukhumvit regulars.

“Saew?”
“For ramen?”
“Sukhumvit 49, really? I practically live there!”
“Is it a new restaurant?”
“Yes!”
“No!”
“Yes, really!”
“No!”

Saew is hardly a new restaurant; the noodle shop has been where it is standing today for over 30 years. Starting off as a small, general merchandise store, the place has evolved since its days into one of the area’s oldest and most trusted establishments for decent Thai comfort meals.

Located just a few doors up from Sukhumvit Road, there really isn’t any parking, thus the Mercedes and Hondas swooping up to trade food and cash through briefly lowered windows.

So surely the place must have its own “secret sauce” to have remained so popular for so long. My lunch at Saew on a recent Saturday afternoon gave me a pretty good idea of what that may be, and here’s my conclusion: It’s comforting; it’s affordable; and it’s just sooooo convenient.

First let’s talk the comfort thing.

Saew serves up a large variety of pork noodles with many different types of noodles, and an even larger selection of toppings to choose from. With pork noodles long a favorite comfort dish among Thais, Saew clearly captures the hearts of a very large demographic of people residing/working in this busy district. To name a few, you can have anything from sen-yai (big rice fettucine-like noodle), to sen-lek (small white rice noodle), to ba-mee (yellow egg noodle), to woon-sen (glass noodle) for your choice of noodles.

From there, you can choose whether you want it dry, or soupy or even semi-soupy (kruk-krik). If you want a little something different, you may want the “pink broth” which is called yentafo – and you will get a completely different kind of dish.

The list of toppings runs from a regular combination, which leaves Saew to decide, to any customized combinations of sphere-shaped fish balls, yellow shrimp balls, fish sticks (“ฮือก๊วย” or heu-kuay), sliced pork, minced pork and many more to suit your own palate.

But that’s not all: See those little bags on the table? I strongly, strongly recommend breaking into those things. They’re either crispy pork rinds or crispy fish-skin chips. Sprinkle them generously on your noodles and they will add a whole new dimension to both the taste and the texture of your favorite bowl.

Secondly, Saew is simply wallet friendly.

When you live downtown and every meal comes in an aircon room with a THB300 bill, it’s good to take a budget-saving break. Saew is the best place for this for anyone, at any time, on any day. Good news is a bowl of noodle at Saew will only cost you between THB35-55, depending on the topping you choose and the size of the bowl in general. And diners can be assured to get their money’s worth, no matter the amount paid. The restaurant’s convenience alone is worth a surcharge, but there isn’t – neither VAT nor service charge. Juices and drinks are served for about THB10-15 per glass. Pro-tip: Try the “Pandanus Jelly drink” (THB15), which you’ll see people drop in just to buy by the liter. All in all, you’ll have a hard time spending more than THB150, unless you’re one of those competitive eaters on TV.

Last but not least, this place is just the most convenient eating spot around.

Aside from taking up almost the very first block into Soi Sukhumvit 49 from the main road, which makes it easily accessed by foot from from BTS Thong Lo, the place also has a couple of free parking spots in front of the restaurant. More likely than not, you will not be so lucky to get one of those spots; but you can always park in Smith’s parking lot (up to 20 spots available), which is only less than 20 meters down the Soi. (This will cost you about THB50, but that’s nothing compared to you’ve committed to saving by eating at Saew.)

And if parking is too much of a hassle, customers can call to pre-order food for pick up.

Nevertheless, eating right at Saew and being able to appreciate its rustic ambience regulars will be my favorite way to enjoy the place. The old interior of a local merchandise store from some 30 years ago is still there. The noodles absolutely taste better when they are freshly served. Even when it’s a little bit too crowded, it’s a great place for some charming people-watching.

FIND IT:
Saew (“แซว”)
1/5 Soi Sukhumvit 49 
7am – 4pm, daily
02-258-7960 (also for phone order)

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