SAaM Restaurant

Asian Flavors Meet Western Favorites

July 6, 2023By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
The Korean fusion restaurant SAaM, in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.
The Korean fusion restaurant SAaM, in Paris’s 10th arrondissement.

Long gone are the days when Asian food in Paris was nearly always standardized and dumbed down. In the last couple of years, the number of creative, high-quality Asian places has grown at a dazzling pace, whether they be Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or other.

I have already written about some of my favorites, notably the Korean Jong-no Samgyetang, but there are many, many more now that deserve a look-in, even though at first glance they don’t always appear to be especially tempting. One example is SAaM, on Rue de Lancry in the 10th arrondissement, a street lined with little restaurants, many of them new Asian places, plus a pizzeria, a Lebanese restaurant, a Creole and a couple of Mexicans.

SAaM, a tiny place with rough, white-painted-brick walls and mismatched flea-market furnishings, happens to be Korean, sort of, at least when it comes to the dupbap, a bowl of rice topped with sautéed veggies, egg yolk and a choice of toppings: beef, pork, tofu or dak (Korean fried chicken). But SAaM is really more of a melting pot, since it also serves a choice of guabaos, little sandwiches made with Chinese baos (steamed buns), more typical of Taiwan than Korea. (Anything made with a bao, a relative newcomer to the food scene here, is hugely popular in Paris at the moment.). The menu boasts another fusion touch that is certainly unexpected in an Asian eatery: French fries.

A <em>guabao</em> with gagi, its eggplant side dish.
A guabao with gagi, its eggplant side dish.

While it seems more like a lunch place, we discovered that the food is plenty filling and satisfying even at dinnertime (lunchtime prices are slightly cheaper). We tried three different kinds of guabaos.

The pork belly in one was appropriately tender and tasty after having been slow-cooked for 12 hours. It came with cucumber, pickled red onions (currently ubiquitous in trendy restaurants here), coriander, hoisin sauce and fried shallots.

The fish guabao was the least interesting: the fried hake was a bit bland, even though it was dressed with mango sauce, tom yum (a hot-and-sour Thai sauce) coleslaw and coriander.

Tofu was a good choice for the third guabao, which was nice and crispy yet tender and spiced up with cumin/curry breading and served with guacamole, coleslaw, sesame and teriyaki sauce.

Each guabao came with a choice of a side dish. The gagi side – eggplant marinated in soy sauce with peanut sauce, Korean chives and sesame oil – was an unctuous, comforting and flavorful delight.

A side dish of kimchi balls.
A side dish of kimchi balls.

More unusual was the side of three kimchi balls, just like Italian arancini – breaded, deep-fried rice balls with mozzarella – but with kimchi added, served with a mayonnaise sauce. They were perfectly cooked and very tasty, but I would have liked the flavor of the kimchi to be more present.

The last “fusional” dish was the dessert: a large, dense piece of yuzu cake with salted-butter caramel sauce. It went down easily and satisfied all three of us.

If SAaM is already full of young people, as these types of good but inexpensive restaurants are likely to be, there are plenty of other choices on the Rue de Lancry. If you don’t mind lining up for a while – it’s always a good idea to go early to try and avoid this eventuality – I can recommend the nearby Gros Bao on the Canal Saint Martin, a large restaurant with a pleasing designer decor and mouthwatering Chinese dishes.

See our Favorite Restaurants by Arrondissement page to find a good restaurant in the neighborhood where you want to eat.


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