The best dishes are born from challenges. This glass noodle salad happened when Dalad Kambhu’s partner asked if she thought she could create a Thai-tasting dish without fish sauce. “It’s everywhere in Thai cooking,” laughs the Bangkok-raised chef based in Berlin.
Kambhu, who only started cooking professionally upon opening her restaurant Kin Dee eight months ago, gets animated when talking about her kitchen experiments. At 31 years old, she’s modeled for Vogue and ran a private NYC dining club, but always dreamed of running a pass. “Men I looked up to told me I couldn’t do it, so I didn’t do it,” she says. But the founders of Berlin fine dining icons Grill Royal and Pauly Saal believed in the young chef and backed her to open Kin Dee.
"I don't care if it looks Thai; it just has to taste Thai."
Kambhu’s glass noodle recipe is a spot-on example of her restaurant’s approach to Thai cuisine—traditional herbs and spices, with local German produce replacing harder-to-find-in-cold-northern-climes ingredients to ensure unyielding freshness and an innovative twist. The Kin Dee salad uses many of the same elements as traditional Thai yum woon sen—chilis, garlic, shallots and sugar in a bright vinaigrette—with the addition of radishes and chicory hearts grown in Berlin’s neighboring Brandenburg region.
“I don’t care if it looks Thai,” Kambhu says, revealing containers of dressing base, shaved radishes and glass noodles, and her prized pickling jars. “It just has to taste Thai.”
The radishes and chicory hearts are pickled for around five to eight days for optimal crunchiness, but the chef says a couple days or weeks will do too.
“I only got interested in pickling when I moved to Germany,” she says. “I love how the sourness of pickling is different from the sourness of lime juice.”
MAKE THIS: Radish and Chicory Glass Noodle Salad
She transfers the noodles into boiling water for one minute, then back again into cold. “That way they stay firm and keep their jelly texture,” she explains.
The vinaigrette, which uses the same base as the pickling liquid, combines traditional Thai ingredients. After tossing, the final step is gently arranging the pickled bits, fresh radishes and mint atop the noodles. “My mom says she likes my dishes because we take more time with the steps than in Thailand,” she grins. “That’s why this is one of my favorite glass noodle dishes.”