One of my favorite Thai dishes is som tam (or som tum as it’s also spelled), a hot and spicy salad made from unripe green papaya. On our last day in Bangkok, Poul and I therefore took a tuk-tuk up to the restaurant Som Tum Der, which is supposed to be one of the best som tam places in town.
If you take a look at the picture below, I’m sure some of you will notice one thing: Where is the chili? Usually the som tam salad would come with little red chili dots all over the place, but ours didn’t, and it was entirely my fault. Poul likes spicy food, but he can’t eat Thai-spicy, so I asked the staff to make it just a little spicy.
When I’m dining on my own in Bangkok, the restaurant staff would usually think that “a little spicy” means a decrease of about 50% in spiciness, because I look Asian, and they assume that all Asians can handle the heat. However, because I was with Poul (a white guy), “a little spicy” translated into not spicy at all. I forgot that, and so we ended up with a meal that didn’t have any flavor at all.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them that “oh, we thought a little spicy would be a little more spicy, please add some chili”. Instead I asked for a spicy sauce on the side, and it saved the meal.
The sausage was flavorful and not too salty, and the sundried, fried pork was just as fatty and chewy as it’s supposed to be. The tom yum soup looked a bit sad, and I’m not sure whether the chili could have saved it. The larb (minced meat salad) was perfectly executed and so was the som tam. With a little chili, that som tam would have made it to my personal Som Tam Top 5 List (yes, such a list exists).
Som Tum Der, I’m sure you’re a great place when allowed to do things your way. I will definitely come back, and this time I’ll go for Thai spicy.
Som Tum Der, 5/5 Saladaeng Road, Silom, Bangkok
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