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Bangkok's best som tam restaurant
Topped with crab, eggs or giant prawns, papaya salad comes in many forms, but it takes a perfect blend of spice, sour and sweet to be a winner
Bangkok's best som tam restaurant -- Recommended: Siriwan Hoi Tod
Let's be brutally honest. Som tam is one of those dishes that, if not made in completely hygenic conditions with the freshest ingredients, you might find yourself with more than indigestion, to put it delicately.
Chef McDang says Siriwan is one of his favorite som tam joints, but not just because it's extremely hygienic.
“It's all about the balance," he says. "The sweetness, saltiness and punchiness has to be right. And there always needs to be peanuts in there."
What he won't accept is sugar, which Siriwan leaves out. "I’m a purist. I like it hot, spicy and slightly sour. If anybody puts sugar in there I throw a fit. That’s not the way you’re supposed to eat Isaan food."
Owned by the friendly Khun Ludda, Siriwan Hoi Tod ("hoi tod" actually means fried oysters) looks like every other hole-in-the-wall restaurant, with its metal tables and plastic stools. But the menu is diverse, including delicious Thai favorites like stir-fried rice, oyster omelettes, curries, soups and that perfect plate of som tam.
120 Prachathipatai Road. +66 (0)2 282 9651. Open daily, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Bangkok's best som tam restaurant -- Recommended: Namjit Gai Yang
“This is my favorite gai yang and som tam place and I order it almost once a week for delivery, but you can eat in their shop house style restaurant too,” says restaurant consultant and TV host chef Ian Kittichai.
Namjit is a self-proclaimed som tam purist, its owner insisting that they refuse to accept strange som tam requests and haven't ever updated the menu. That means if you've got a craving for fried som tam with cat fish, look elsewhere.
The decor is simple but this place has survived for nearly 40 years due to its original Isaan taste and top ingredients sourced from around the country, right down to the perfectly ripe slices of tomatoes.
332-334 Soi 18 Ekkamai Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 392 8000. Open daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Bangkok's best som tam restaurant -- Recommended: Polo Fried Chicken
Polo Fried Chicken doesn't just cook up a mean bird.
This famous Wireless Road eatery brings in followers by the droves for its som tam, too.
"Famed for its fried chicken, but some would argue that it’s the accompanying papaya salad, intense and moreish, that steals the show. Think of it as the Joe Pesci of som tam," says writer and food critic Tim Footman.
The rest of the menu at this family-owned restaurant is standard northeast Thailand Isaan fare, which means lots of spicy salads and the restaurant's signature fried chicken.
3 Soi Polo, Wireless Road, Lumpini. Tel: +66 (0) 22 51 2772. Open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Bangkok's best som tam restaurant -- Winner: Som Tam Nua
It's tough for a business to survive in Siam Square, a hangout haunt for gaggles of fickle Bangkok students.
Yet this two-floor restaurant has built a solid following on som tam alone -- offering dozens of versions of the famous papaya salad dish.
"Som Tam Nua has got the art of papaya salad nailed, in more varieties than one can imagine. Be prepared to queue up for a table," says Thai 101 publisher Mason Florence.
In business for almost a decade, Som Tam Nua has never lost it charm nor its popularity. With modern décor, the place is always packed full during peak hours.
It is more of an eat-and-run place rather than a chill out spot, serving flavorful Isaan dishes including the popular phad kanomjeen (stir-fried rice noodles) and fried chicken.
392/14 Soi Siam Square 5, Rama 1 Road. Tel +66 (0) 22 51 4880. Open daily, 10:45 a.m.-9.30 p.m.