What I Ordered
- Papaya Salad
- Isaan Wings
- Pork Neck
- Sticky Rice
In Short: I’ll probably stick to the street for my somtam and pork neck from now on, but I think I’ll definitely be back to Somtam Nua just for their wings!
Dave and I have been enjoying all of Bangkok’s street food so much, that after about two months of living here, we realized that we still hadn’t tried any actual restaurants yet. Being two people who pretty much live to eat and try new places, we realized this was a bit odd and immediately set out to make a list of places we had to try. At the top of that list was a place we started reading about in multiple places, Somtam Nua, located right in Siam Square. What we read was that the modern Isaan (north eastern) Thai food that they serve at Somtam is so popular that they had to put seats and cushions outside the restaurant for people waiting. I didn’t know what Isaan food really was, but I did remember that Pok Pok, one of my favorite restaurants in NY and Portland, specializes in the same type of cuisine. Ok, so we had to try it.
Papaya salad is a spicy shredded salad made from unripe papaya and they serve it everywhere in Bangkok. This dish has very quickly become one of our favorites. Somtam actually means Papaya Salad in Thai, so we figured that this must be what Somtam Nua was specializing in. Their menu consists of about 5 different types of Papaya salad, and since we can’t read Thai, we pointed at the picture of the one that looked the best to us, signaling to our waiter that this was the one we wanted to try (this has pretty much been how we order all of our meals in Bangkok – that or pointing at someone who is actually eating a dish we think looks great).
In addition to the Papaya salad, we saw that everyone was eating the Isaan wings. This, combined with the fact that we love wings and combined with the fact that the Isaan wings at Pok Pok is one of our favorite dishes… ever, and well that order was a no brainer. Lastly, we ordered the pork neck and a side of sticky rice.
We’ve realized that the portion sizes in Thailand are much smaller than they are in the US, so typically instead of ordering two entrees, we’ll order three, plus the obligatory side order of white rice (we prefer ours sticky). We have found that usually, after the three dishes and a dessert of some kind, we’re not stuffed, but we’re satisfied.
Anyway, our wings came out first and though they weren’t as big as the ones they’re serving at Pok Pok (not surprising), they had that same sweet and spicy flavor and were really delicious. In fact, I would even go so far as to say they were awesome. When we finished them, I wished we had another order waiting for us.
Next, we tried the pork neck. This is a dish we had never tried until moving to Bangkok, and it’s become one of our favorites. If done right, the meat is tender, juicy, extremely flavorful, and not too fatty. The pork neck at Somtam was just as good as any we’ve had.
Last, the famous papaya salad from Somtam. In addition to the fact that this is pretty much the only salad we can ever get in Bangkok and I like to be healthy at least once in a while, I love papaya salad because of all of the great ingredients, the texture, and of course, the spicy, delicious dressing. The dish always comes with peanuts (I pretty much love anything that has peanuts or any type of nuts in it), green beans, tomatoes, lime, and dried shrimp. Every place does it a little bit differently, but for the most part, all of those ingredients are always present. I took my first bite and thought that Somtam was doing their papaya salad very well, but for about 120 baht (I can’t find the menu online anywhere, but I think this is around what we paid), I didn’t think that it was any better than the papaya salad I had at my local market a few days before for 30 baht (or $1). The portion size was also much smaller.
All in all, I thought that Somtam Nua was a great way to get our feet wet with the restaurant scene in Bangkok. Though it definitely was not as much of a scene as I thought it would be (not only were there no people waiting outside to get in when we arrived, the restaurant was actually quite empty), the food and ambiance were still good. I’ll probably stick to the street for my somtam and pork neck from now on, but I think I’ll definitely be back to Somtam Nua just for their wings!
Photo Credit: Trip Advisor