Thailand is known the world over for its street eats. Some street food joints rise above rest, whether it’s due to a special cooking technique, quality of ingredients used or the notoriously long queues. A flight to Bangkok is no longer necessary as Samsen, located in an alley in Sheung Wan, ticks all those boxes! Samsen’s first branch in Wan Chai is famed for its signature boat noodles (inspired by Thailand’s river markets) and has been crowned a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand Restaurant so read on to find out what’s in store at their second branch!
Casual retro vibes in the heart of Sheung Wan
Stepping into Samsen is like walking the bustling streets of Bangkok’s night markets. Warm wooden doors and tile-paved floors reminiscent of local Thai shop houses frame the open entrance, which is highlighted by a pop of colour with turquoise panels and sunny yellow cupboards. Vintage posters and retro Thai knick-knacks sourced by founders Adam Cliff and Bella Kong are dispersed around the space, creating a vibrant and lively buzz.
Sure to catch your attention is the open kitchen where cooks busily whip up delicious delights, making melodious sounds with spatulas cranking up the pans. If you’re alone or in pairs, we suggest grabbing a seat at the bar and slurp away as you watch the team cook up a storm and count your lucky stars that you could even get a seat since Samsen is almost always packed. However, sharing-style dishes take centre stage here as it does in Thai culture making this vibrant eatery perfect for families and larger groups.
Showcase of Chef Adam’s passion and vibrancy
As an Australian serving Thai food in Hong Kong, Samsen’s chef-owner Adam Cliff articulates on capturing authentic Thai flavour. He points out, “One can have split preferences in choosing what to eat. But I am drawn to traditional tastes and cooking techniques.” There’s nothing new or high-tech in their kitchen. The menu draws inspiration from the quick and easy street food of the bustling night markets. In addition, due to the proximity of the dining area to the kitchen, Samsen is able to recreate a trait vital to Thai street food: serving the dishes sizzling hot right after they’re cooked.
Taking advantage of the network he built in Bangkok, Cliff is ahead of the game when it comes to sourcing produce and spices. “I have very good suppliers from Bangkok, and I know the market there very well. I can tell them to get ingredients from a specific shop at a specific market. These local produce and spices are crucial to serving delicious dishes here,” he shares.
Where good food meets good conversations
A popular Thai street food item, the caramelized coconut & prawn, betel leaf wrap (HKD88), is designed to be eaten in a single bite. It was bursting with flavour; the wrap was sweet, sour, spicy and crunchy as its topped with crushed peanuts, ginger and refreshing pomelo. Crisped to perfection and packing a punch were the fried red curry fish cakes (HKD108), another firm favourite as it’s seasoned with red curry and kaffir limes.
We cosied up with the fragrant spicy southern curry of tiger prawns and betel leaf (HKD168) with a refreshing squeeze of calamansi, coconut milk, Thai chillies and a dash of turmeric. The freshly made roti (HKD42) perfectly accompanied the curry. Cooked on a customised griddle flown in from Thailand, the roti featured layers of crispy and chewy goodness brushed in clarified butter for a flaky finish. We relished the experience of scooping up the curry with the roti – as addictive as it gets.
The highlight on the menu was the Khao Soi of curried beef with fresh egg noodles (HKD 148). Originating from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, this classic dish featured a flavourful curry base made daily using fresh curry paste fried with freshly squeezed coconut cream. Poured over chewy noodles flown in fresh from Thailand, every slurp was a luscious mix of interesting textures as its topped with crispy noodles, pickled mustard greens, spring onion and a lime wedge.
Spice junkies can have their fix in dishes like stir fried spicy Wagyu beef & flat noodles (HKD148) and the fried rice with Wagyu beef, tomatoes & chilli (HKD138). Though these dishes looked simple, when eaten, it created an explosion of flavours, something perfect to finish your meal or perhaps the reason to go in the first place. Tender and succulent beef along with an expert blend of spices and aromatics played a leading role in every bite. You’ll be left craving what will arrive to your table next.
Beat the heat with refreshing drinks & desserts
Alongside an array of refreshing drinks from Thai beer to Thai-style milk tea and a young coconut drink to amazing slushies, the homemade ice creams (HKD 68) remain a sensational way to end the meal. The young coconut ice Cream (HKD68) is a perennial crowd-pleaser with toasted peanuts, fresh coconut shavings and sweet corn; while the Thai red tea ice Cream (HKD68) should be sold by the carton in supermarkets, as pure in flavour as it is silky smooth in texture. If you’re a fan of mochis just like us, you’ll love the chewy pandan and coconut dumplings (HKD78) served in warm salted coconut cream with a filling that’s dry and sweet – making every scoop an unforgettable experience.
It’s as close as you can get to Thai classics without making a trip to Thailand. We’ve got to admit that the saying, “Good things come to those who wait!” holds true at Samsen.
Samsen Sheung Wan; 23 Jervois Street, G/F, Sheung Wan; +852 2234 0080