I’ve always wanted to try Sab-E-Lee having read many posts about the great quality of Thai food there. I think just mmm-yoso has about a million Sab-E-Lee posts, which all look verrry tempting.
After spending a month in Thailand a couple years ago its hard to be overjoyed with the insipid vaguely ketchup-y Pad Thai stuff that is passed off as Thai food in many places. It is also hard to will myself to drive to Linda Vista but getting a half day off work helped with that :)
So I stopped by the Sab-E-Lee on Ulric Rd and got some Pork Nahm Tok and their Papaya Salad to go. They have a Yum-Woon Sen salad with shrimp and ground pork on glass noodles as well as a Nam Sod Salad that sounded more interesting than the papaya salad but according to them their papaya salad is “VERY POPULAR!!!” and the use of not one or two but THREE exclamation marks won me over.
The location is verrrry small and despite them obviously being successful enough to open a second location this place is tiny and very bare bones. Don’t come here with a large group expecting to be seated right away. Or at all depending how large. The waitresses were friendly and the place was half full for lunch. I was happy to see the many kinds of chili you can top your meal with set out at the table just like we saw everywhere in Thailand.
Now for the food. The pork nahm tok was very flavorful, the pork was thinly sliced and topped with lots of cilantro, red onion, and rice powder. Could have been a little more charred but the abundance of spices and herbs guarantees its anything but bland. The nahm tok comes with cabbage and cucumbers for you to make little cabbage tacos with the pork.
The papaya salad comes with green papaya, dried shrimps, sliced chiles, tomatoes, green onions, peanuts and has a very strong dressing. I personally liked it but I think people who have more reservations about fish sauce might be discouraged.
Now the only downside: I read that their spicy levels are more legit than most Thai restaurants where a 10 is generally pretty unimpressive. So I was conservative and ordered a 4 (I would normally go with a 6). But even so the spiciness level was wayyy too high for me. For the papaya salad there are slices of Thai chili and biting into one of those larger pieces made my eyes water. I generally avoided them after that but for the nahm tok the sauce itself was pretty spicy so there was not much to do. I ate I think half of both and then just kind of drank copious amounts of water for a prolonged period of time….
I will readily admit that my spicy tolerance is kind of mediocre though as I did not grow up eating spicy food so perhaps take this with a grain of salt. I do however love hot sauce on my breakfast burritos, jalapenos in my sandwiches and have sriracha in my fridge at all times so I have somewhat been indoctrinated into San Diego’s spicy loving ways.
Overall despite the out-of-my-league spiciness I quite liked the food. Will be back to try the Pad See Ew and the Pork Neck Nahm Tok! Will also probably order a level 2 (the shame).
2405 Ulric Street, San Diego, CA 92111
13223-2 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129
- Thai Green Papaya Salad with salted crab (travelingcurious.com)
- Revisits to The Original Sab E Lee, Sab E Lee Santee and Koon Thai, and Thai Pepper (mmm-yoso.typepad.com)
- COMC – Places you know: Que Huong and The Original Sab E Lee Rancho Penasquitos (mmm-yoso.typepad.com)