Tasty Isaan flavours
Focusing on the bold flavours of Northeast Thailand, Somtum Bangkok doesn’t go over-the-top trendy despite its location in one of the city’s trendiest areas. Expect classic som tam with a few unusual twists served at an open-air deck or air-con dining room.
The Thai/English menu with photos dives right in with 15 types of the namesake green papaya salad in the 80 to 200 baht range. We went for the priciest version of all, som tam buu nim, which featured a sizeable deep-fried soft-shell crab placed atop a slightly sweet plate of som tam Thai. The crab was tender and delicious, and the grated strips of green papaya came with exactly the amount of spice that we requested.
You’ll also find classic som tam Lao (spicier and more sour flavours with fermented fish sauce), som tam paa (with veggies) and som tam kung sot (with raw prawns). Next time we’ll go for the deep-fried snakehead fish topped with spicy green mango salad, or perhaps branch further towards the fusion side by way of a spicy salmon salad with chunks of green apple.
Several other types of spicy Isaan salads are available, featuring ingredients like forest mushrooms, bamboo shoots, grilled pork neck and catfish. We thoroughly enjoyed skewers of laap muu tort, deep fried balls of an herbaceous Isaan mainstay that’s usually served as a minced pork salad. Springy two-bite spheres packed in loads of flavour and weren’t the least bit dry or crumbly. The two dishes and some sticky rice left us stuffed.
Cold beer is available and diners with a sweet tooth can finish up with a cool treat from neighbouring Viva Gelato, which is managed by the same group. Offering tables set up next to some greenery under an open-side awning and in a small indoor air-conditioned space, Somtum Bangkok fills up with local office workers around lunchtime. It also gets busy during prime dinner hours.
To get here from Ari BTS station, head west down Soi Ari (Phahonyothin Soi 7) and hang a left on Ari Soi 3. You’ll see the white sign for Somtum Bangkok down about 50 metres on the left.
Address: 9 Ari Soi 3, Bangkok
T: (02) 619 8659
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º32'33.92" E, 13º46'54.27" N
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David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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