Excellent Thai at Zabb Elee in East Village


On the sweltering 4th of July, we went to Zabb Elee for dinner. It seemed apt to have Thai food since Thailand tend to have the hot, humid weather almost all year round and their cuisine would adapt well to the climate. Also we craved a vibrant, robust flavored meal.

Zaab Elee was lauded by many food enthusiasts and food writers like Dave Cook (who wrote for The New York Times) so we presumed this wouldn’t disappoint. We came in with high expectations and they haven’t proved us wrong.

The spread

So here’s what we ate…

Thai Iced Tea Som Tom Poo Plara Pickled crab found in the papaya salad (Som Tom Poo Plara)
Som Tom Poo Plara and one of the pickled crabs in that salad

The most shockingly good thing we had was the Som Tom Poo Plara ($9), a papaya salad with preserved crab and pickled fish & crispy pork skin. At first glance, this seems like a typical green papaya salad except when you start digging in, there were a few pickled (raw) blue crabs. I never had raw pickled crabs but these were delicious. The sweet undertone was dominant and lingered with a touch of salt. In terms of texture, it’s like a firm jelly that you’d suck out from the shell. It’s delicious. The papaya salad was robustly flavored – salty, spicy, and sweet.

The tall glass of Thai iced tea ($3) was a great, not too sweet drink to cool off both from the heat of the food and the heat from outside.

Duck larb
Duck larb

The duck larb ($11) was excellent. A moist minced-meat salad, lively with shallots, scallions, mint, cilantro, chile and lime.

Kra Pao Moo Krob
Kra Pao Moo Krob

The Kra Pao Moo Krob ($11), super crispy pork slices with refreshing bites of Thai basil leaf, and minced chile peppers. This heady flavored dish was salty, spicy and minutely sweet – my tongue was tingling from all of the spices. It’s best eaten with a bowl of sticky rice ($2, as seen below) to calm the fires a bit.

Sticky rice
Sticky rice

This meal was filling, inexpensive and absolutely delicious. It’s worth going out for if you’re craving food that give your tastebuds a wake up call – it’s unapologetically spicy and flavors that clash yet works out very well.

To view more photos of this meal, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):

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Zabb Elee

75 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 505-9533


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.