Could this be Bangkok’s best somtum?

Bangkok, Evergreen, Food, Food, Thailand / Monday, October 27th, 2014

Somtum at Udomsuk Soi 19

I have had many contenders for the title of Bangkok’s best somtum papaya salad. But for some time now I have been settled on one stall in particular, in Udomsuk on the outskirts of the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit line. In fact I’ve become such a regular that, whenever I take a motorbike taxi from outside my home, one of the drivers always asks me if I’m going to this particular somtum shop – no matter where I actually happen to be headed.

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Somtum at Udomsuk Soi 19

This simple setup, a few tables and a myriad of cooking pots at the side of the road just before the corner of Udomsuk Soi 19, gets going around dusk every evening except Mondays. The whole family seems involved in the running – there are even a couple of young children who run up and down with orders or to collect the bill! As a result, service is usually quick and efficient.

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Grilled catfish and grilled pork neck at Udomsuk Soi 19

But it is the food that is the real winner here. While the menu is nothing out of the ordinary – just the regular smorgasbord of Laotian-inspired northeastern Thai dishes – their quality and execution make the place stand out from the crowd. As with any somtum stand, the way to do it is to order in a number of different dishes (the same as the number of people eating, plus one, is a reliable formula) along with lots of sticky rice or rice noodles to dip into the various chilli-based sauces.

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Somtum thai at Udomsuk Soi 19

Almost invariably if I am visiting this stall I will order up somtum hoy dong. It’s a variety of papaya salad made with fermented cockles, and it’s one of my favourites. Relatively hard to come by as a dish, it’s not stocked by the majority of papaya salad vendors – but even where you can find it, I’ve yet to come across somewhere serving it up in as irresistible a form as here. The cockles give a tangy sourness and yet the salad is sweet at the same time, but in a different way from the sweetness you get from the palm sugar loaded into a regular somtum thai, the more common version found just about everywhere. Best of all, this shop goes heavy on both the spice and the amount of cockles they throw in – both essential for a winning plate!

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Somtum hoy dong

But everything else is spot on, too – from the other types of papaya salad including somtum thai, made with peanuts and dried shrimps, and somtum puu pla rah, livened up with fermented fish and pickled crabs, right through to other Isaan staples like grilled catfish (pla duk yang), grilled pork neck (kor moo yang), the herby northeastern pork salad namtok moo and tom saap, a hot and sour northeastern soup ladened with melt-in-your-mouth meat that’s falling off the bone.

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RECOMMENDED: Search Agoda for accommodation near Udomsuk

Namtok moo at Udomsuk Soi 19

You’re highly unlikely to find any other non-Thais at this no-name roadside stall, and ordering could be a problem if you don’t speak Thai. But while the regular practice is to scribble your own order down on a pad, if you don’t write Thai but can muster up enough words to communicate your order then that will work fine too. Prices are naturally more reasonable than you would expect in a more touristy area; a spread like the one at the top of this post (there are more dishes off-camera!) usually comes to no more than 200-300 baht. Soft drinks and beer are available too.

To get there, take the BTS to Udomsuk station and pick up a motorbike taxi outside to take you to Udomsuk soi 19, which is on the left-hand side of the road as you’re walking away from the Skytrain. You can’t miss the stall, just a few steps before the entrance to soi 19. Alternatively, it’s about a twenty-minute walk from the BTS station.

7 Replies to “Could this be Bangkok’s best somtum?”

  1. Hello! We are featuring the best of food & drink posts around the world and would like your permission to feature a part of this post and your other post on Bangkok’s best pad thai in our site. I will add in your blog post link and credit your blog as well. Hope to hear from you soon!

  2. Hi Chris, I like your article. I love food, in particular the hot-spicy Lao-Isaan food, like the Som Tum Lao (Som Tum Plaraa) with sticky rice and Kai Yang (grilled chicken). In Laos, Som Tum is called Tum Mak Hoong and is considered as the Laos national dish.


    1. Hi Pat – thanks for the comment! As you’ll have guessed from this article, I share your love of somtum, gai yaang and sticky rice – and as my boyfriend is from the northeast of Thailand and so speaks the region’s Laotian dialect, somtum is also known as ‘tummakhoong’ in our house! And I’d argue that nowadays it’s just as much the Thai national dish as it is in Laos – certainly much more than the likes of green curry or pad thai! 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by.

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