Sabai Sabai: Authentic Thai Restaurant in Zamalek
Truly authentic Thai food is hard to come by at restaurants in Cairo, and tucked away on the floor above Metro Market in Zamalek, Sabai Sabai’s new location has remained elusive to many of the city’s residents. Signs within the building guide you to the restaurant and a small cascading fountain welcomes you outside of the restaurant’s doors. Only open since the end of 2012, the restaurant has been spreading quickly by word of mouth as one of Cairo’s best Thai restaurants. Although in 2008 the restaurant had a different location in Zamalek – where The Tai Elephant now is – it was closed while new locations were opened in other parts of the city.
The white interior and Thai-inspired wall-décor make the small venue a charming and intimate setting for those restaurant goers who are able to find this hidden gem. We were quickly attended to by the waiters and handed a menu with an extensive list of options for appetisers, main courses and desserts. We first opted for Poh Pia Pak (12LE), a vegetable spring roll appetiser, along with Keaw Nam wanton soup (30LE). The spring rolls were tightly wrapped, perfectly fried and served with a side of chilli sauce for dipping. The wanton soup was a delicious mix of fresh ingredients, including lemon grass, coriander, and mushrooms, tossed in a broth along with shrimp dumplings that were sealed in a sleek wanton wrap.
Although there was a bit of a gap between the serving of our appetisers and main course, the staff were otherwise attentive to our requests and, after some delay, our steaming main course dishes arrived. Though we were a little disappointed at the lack of crushed peanuts that usually garnish the dish, the nutty flavour of the Pad Thai (49LE) added a delicious kick to the sweet and salty orange sauce. Accompanying the Pad Thai was a heap of fresh bean sprouts and a skillfully carved carrot in the shape of a flower. Our Hor Mok Talay (54) was equally fresh, featuring salmon floating in thin red curry sauce. Despite requesting the dish to be mild, the sauce was quite spicy. However, we found this to be forgivable in light of the diverse flavours of the dish, and an order of jasmine rice (9LE) allowed us to thin out the spiciness.
For dessert, we decided to indulge in the Khao Niao Kaeo (30LE), or sticky rice with mango, and Bua Loi (22LE), or sticky rice balls. We were notified that there was no mango to accompany the sticky rice and were instead offered fresh slices of banana. Although the sticky rice and mango combination has no equal substitution, we found the sticky rice to be sufficiently sweet, but slightly dry. However, the sticky rice balls in coconut milk really hit the spot. The dessert was served warm with soft rice balls floating in sweetened coconut milk.
We learned that ‘sabai sabai’ is indeed a Thai phrase roughly translating to ‘not a care in the world’, signifying blissful contentment; a sentiment not far from our mood upon finishing our meal. The cosy setting and fresh ingredients are factors that will certainly have us coming back soon to fix our craving for delicious and reasonably priced Thai food in the big city.