[BKK] Som Tam Nua | classic Thai papaya salad you can't afford to miss!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Som Tam Nua, located in the busy district of Siam Square is what one would easily overlooked as a tourist as most tend to go for the glamorous and famous eateries. We read about this place from a guide book and surely took a while to find the place amid the different aisles and lanes located at Siam Square.

The highly acclaimed papaya salad was good enough to make it the single highlight of the restaurant. Ranked by CNN as one of the top 100 eats in Bangkok, it would surely be a place worth visiting!

When we eventually found the restaurant, we were handed a menu and placed our orders to the gentleman who was busy managing the queue of customers. It was however quite a confusing situation whereby there was no indication of where was the start or end of the queue. People were just standing around, so a tip would be to go straight to the man in charge (holding an order chit book) or just sit down at one of the available seats and wait for him to come to you to take your orders.

Interestingly, after some 15-20 minutes of waiting time, we were ushered to our table upstairs. The best part was, the food was already served and ready waiting for the hungry gluttons!

Thai papaya mix salad (79 THB)

Was it as good as what many claimed to be? Certainly so! It was refreshingly light and we enjoyed the varied textures found in this simple dish. The nice crisp pig skin complemented the soft tofu and there was an assortment of fresh ingredients that you would expect from a classic papaya salad such as shredded unripe papaya.

What made this appetiser so special was the beautiful combination of five different tastes from the sour lime, hot chilli, saltiness and savoury fish sauce and a touch of sweetness from palm sugar.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Northeast style spicy soup with pork bones (105 THB)

Having tried two other versions of solid tom yum from Nahm and Nara Thai, which each gave a good oomph, how did this fare?

While the broth looked intimidatingly spicy, it was actually well balanced and evidently the heat and tang from the soup stood out to be the two prominent tastes. Unlike the two tom yum tried which focused more on the freshness of the key ingredients, seafood, this depended largely on the pork bones to derive the base of the broth and expect to find thick chunks of pork meat with layers of fat intact. The soup however tasted light on our palate and not excessively greasy.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Hot and spicy crispy fish (105 THB)

Personally, I felt that the dish could be improved. While being deep-fried, it was not crispy enough and for those who are not good with handling bones, do exercise extra caution as the fish had plenty of strong sharp bones. While we enjoyed the heat of the dish, it lacked a nice crispness to top off the fresh seafood.

Verdict: 6.0/10

Fried chicken (98 THB)

Offered in two sizes, a larger portion size would come at 130 THB. This was highly recommended by the gentleman who took our orders and insisted that this was a must-try and surely it made our calories counted! The fried chicken was tender on the inside and very crispy on the surface with a nice batter. The diced spring onions sprinkled across made it extra fragrant and even writing about it now makes me reminisce the juiciness of the fried chicken wings!

Verdict: 8.5/10

Fried Thai rice-flour noodles (98 THB)

The rice-flour noodles was quite different from the usual flat rice-noodles used for Pad Thai. This tended to be on the stickier and starchier side and what made this noodles so memorable was the complementing pork floss and diced fried pig skin which gave a beautiful dressing to the fried noodles.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Expect a quick turnaround of the tables as most customers are regulars and come knowing what to order. While queuing for our table, there were quite a few tourists too who similarly carried guide books that shortlisted Som Tam Nua as one of the must-try spots for authentic Thai cuisine. More importantly, the prices were highly affordable which explained why this was a popular hideout among younger customers and local students. Definitely worth a visit if you are dropping by the Siam Square area though it might be rather tricky to find the location since the front of the restaurant is currently blocked by ongoing renovations.

Som Tam Nua
392/14 Soi Siam Square 5, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok
Tel: +66 (0) 2251 4880
Opening Hours: 1045 - 2130hrs

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