Bangkok: Som Tam Nua

Som Tam Nua, Siam Square, Bangkok

Today I skipped breakfast and went straight for lunch instead at Som Tam Nua down at Siam Square. Som Tam Nua used to be tucked away down a narrow alley, but after the complete makeover of Siam Square, it is now out in the open at what has become a prime location.

Around lunchtime, there’s usually a long line out in front, and today was no exception, but it moved fast and I don’t think I waited more than 10 minutes. One of the staff members took my order, while I was still in the line waiting to enter, so after I was seated my food arrived within minutes.

Som Tam is the spicy Thai papaya salad, which is what the restaurant specializes in, so you can’t really eat at Som Tam Nua without having papaya salad. I’ve tried most of the different variants on their menu except for the one with sausage, so I decided to give that one a try. I also ordered the usual BBQ pork and of course one of those cute little rattan baskets with sticky rice on the side. Sometimes the pork can be a bit dry but that wasn’t the case today.

My taste buds have already adapted to Bangkok spicy, so I didn’t even have to reach for the iced tea (or the napkins), while eating my spicy papaya salad. This usually doesn’t happen until day 3 or day 4, so if this continues, I’ll be eating Thai chili straight from the jar before I’m leaving Bangkok:)

Som Tam Nua is one of my favorite spots in Bangkok. The restaurant used to be a hidden gem, tucked away down a narrow alley on Siam Square, but after the area got a makeover, Som Tam Nua is now much easier to find.

Som Tam Nua primarily attracts local fashionistas in need of a snack after hours of hard core shopping in the trendy area around Siam Square. The local appeal is also reflected in the price level, even though the prices have gone up the last couple of years. Most som tams cost 75-90THB and the fried chicken was 120THB last time I was there. There’s both an English menu and a Thai menu, and I’ve noticed that it looks like there are more dishes to choose among in the Thai menu. I don’t know if the prices are the same., or if there are any differences.

The menu is dominated by spicy food from the Isaan province, including several kinds of som tam (papaya salad) but also other tidbits such as fried chicken and pork crackling. My favorite som tam is the one with crispy pork. Try it, and I’m sure you’ll understand why, as it is absolutely yummy-licious. Also remember to order sticky rice, which comes in a small basket. You dip it in spicy sauce and eat it with your fingers.

The ground level can be rather hectic, as people come and go all the time and the tables are cleaned immediately to make room for new customers, but one stair up, the pace is much slower. Though don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the service, as the emphasis is on getting the orders out quickly. Around lunch and dinner, Som Tam Nua is almost always full, so be prepared to wait for a table.

Yingdeaw Homemade café is right next to Som Tam Nua, so if you are looking for a cup of tea and something sweet for dessert, this is where you should be heading. Last time I visited Som Tam Nua, they even offered me to order drinks from Yingdeaw’s menu.

• The food (especially the salads) at Som Tam Nua is very spicy, so if you aren’t sure you can handle the heat, ask to have it non-spicy

My blog about food and restaurants in Bangkok

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