Remember a decade ago – before ramen and ceviche and poké bowls – when the most ethnic excitement you could get in Amsterdam was Indonesian rijsttafel or Thai green curry? I’ve always been a spice fiend, so I used to go out for Thai food a lot back then… But a few years later the international cuisine scene that we know today erupted in the Dutch capital and I just, kinda, forgot to go to Thai restaurants in Amsterdam anymore. Just recently,
Fortunately, the following Saturday night brought better news all round. A group of six of us were celebrating a friend’s birthday, so we headed to SOI 74 in de Pijp for pre-party dinner and drinks. An ice bucket of six bottles of Thai beer for €20 added to the festive Saturday-night atmosphere, as did the other revellers in the restaurant. The music was perhaps a tad loud for eating – but then again I’m in my late 30s so it’s probably best to gloss over my occasional grumpy old woman tendencies.
To start, we ordered a couple of platters of mixed meaty snacks to share: chicken satay skewers were marinated in fresh spices and served with a clearly homemade peanut dipping sauce; chicken meatballs were fragrant with lemongrass and Thai basil; sausages were a surprising hit with plenty of Southeast Asian flavour (we also tried the raw sausage as a borrelhapje with our beer – something like a Thai version of ossenworst, I naturally loved it); and pork belly came in a sticky, moreish marinade.
My red curry main with shrimps was properly spicy, full of flavour, and a generous portion size for the price. The prawns were fresh, unlike at Chok Dee, and the dish also comprised pineapple and tomato, which added to the curry’s hot ‘n fruitiness. Thai ribs and the other curries were also a hit with those who ordered them. The bill came to €35 each, including the two courses, G&Ts, wine and beer – SOI 74 was a proper Saturday night out with a very friendly price tag.
A week or so later, we decided to hit Mae Somjai near Nieuwmarkt for a cheap and cheerful Sunday night supper. I had high hopes for this Thai hole-in-the-wall because a friend of mine used to go there every week when she lived in the area. However, the night we went it was a different chef in the kitchen – which perhaps accounts for the lacklustre food.
Pork massaman tasted more like a penang curry – the flavour was fine, but it didn’t have the depth of spice you’d expect from the dish it was supposed to be. Pad Thai was equally lacking in pizazz, although Mae Somjai’s version was nowhere near as bad as Chok Dee’s and had the virtue of at least being considerably cheaper. On the plus side, Thai fishcakes were tasty, with plenty of flavour from the kaffir lime leaves and sweet-chilli dipping sauce. Mains at Mae Somjai only cost around €11-13, and they also offer takeaway and delivery – so I might have to give them a second chance when my friend’s “Thai Mom” is back in the kitchen. In the meantime, I’ve added SOI 74 to my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide and am still on the lookout for new Thai additions… Which are your favourites?