By Manta Klangboonkrong
Somtum Der serves it the authentic Isaan way
Somtam might be “street food”, but you can wash it down with a martini in air-conditioned comfort at Somtum Der on Saladaeng Road. This is what you call progress.
And, yes, the somtam is authentic, as are all the other Isaan delicacies on offer at the restaurant, which uses a variant of the spelling in its name.
Like every other dish that Bangkok has “imported” from afar, somtam has been localised, leading aficionados of the real things to complain that the big-city version has too much sugar, as well as low-quality ingredients. If Bangkok somtam gives you a tummy-ache, that’s probably why.
The genuine dish is in fact quite healthy, enriched with vitamins and calcium and containing negligible cholesterol or fat. Paired with a small meat dish and rice, a somtam lunch should give you the energy to power through the rest of the day.
Somtum Der co-owner Thanaruek Laoraowirodge is a bit of a powerhouse himself. “I was always looking for the kind of somtam I had back home in Khon Kaen,” he says.
“Here in Bangkok they make it too sweet. That’s why I thought up the idea of having a place where the real thing is available, but in an ambience completely different from where these dishes are usually offered.”
Somtum Der is dressed in modern decor but there’s plenty to remind you of the Northeast. Downstairs has small tables for smaller groups and lone diners and upstairs are the vast tables and more privacy. Trendy, chill-out tunes are piped in throughout.
The menu is small but covers all the essentials, including somtam in several varieties, grilled meat with spicy dips, fiery soups and fried dishes.
Recommended is Tum Sua Sakonnakorn (Bt65), which is a Sakonnakorn-style somtam with pla ra and kratin seeds. The pla ra is made from different kinds of freshwater fish and cooked fresh daily.
Other specialities are Kaeng Om Gai (Bt95), thick herbal soup with chicken and a dash of pla ra, and Moo Rong Hai, which is grilled pork (Bt85) or beef (Bt95) with an Isaan-style dip.
For a quick and satisfying meal, go for the Somtum Pla Tu Khao Mun (Bt95), a very rare recipe. The somtam is seasoned with shredded grilled mackerel and served with broth-infused rice.
There are several drinks made in-house with herbs including rosella, lemongrass, chrysanthemum and Asiatic pennywort. For a more substantial drink, get one of the martinis made with lemongrass-or rosella-infused vodka (Bt120). A straight lemongrass-infused vodka shot can also be had at Bt90. There are several beers and wines on offer.
<< Somtum Der is on Saladaeng Road near the Saladaeng Skytrain station and the Silom subway stop.
<< It’s open daily except Sunday from 11am to 10pm.
<< Make reservations at (02) 632 4499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.