Posts Tagged With: Somtum Der

Somtum Der – For Babies Who Lunch

Somtum Der - Goi HedIts time to bump up this Z-Lister and one of my favorite Thai in NYC.  All these recent Thai posts can only mean one thing.  Its getting freakin cold!  And when its cold I like to eat spicy things.  And we are also just about outta here to escape this cold front.  But this time we are trying something new.  We are leaving for something colder instead of warmer (no TCI).  The idea is that by the time we come back, we can enjoy better weather.  At least thats what we are convincing ourselves.

A few weeks after dining at Ugly Baby I found myself surrounded by them at the most unexpected of places.  It was like a Thai mommy and me and Papaya salad event at Somtum Der on a weekday afternoon.  And I suddenly felt this urge I never felt before… calling random babies ugly.  No, its not me losing my marbles, but really it felt more of a Mitsvah.  As I mentioned before, in Thailand apparently you call random babies ugly in order not to attract the ugly spirit.  I even asked the waitress while chewing on their fried chicken (good as usual) and she confirmed.  She then remarked how they always say the opposite in regards to many other things for this reason.  But when I mentioned how awful their food was she gave me a look and said this doesnt apply to food.

Not much has changed at Somtum Der since they opened 4 years ago.  Its usually fairly empty when I’m there but thats because I’m usually there between lunch and dinner (after a tour).  The funky looking room that is not quite East Villagy is bright and colorful hence well received by ugly babies and bloggers.  And there’s a side of me that loves menus with pictures, huge colorful pictures.  Thats how I pick travel books.

When in Rome… I der you not to start with the Somtum (Papaya salad).  You see what I did there?  Any of the pictured salads will do, but I’m partial to the ones with the salted eggs.  But every meal at Somtum usually starts and ends with Moo Rong Hai Der, the house special grilled marinated pork.  Its playful and delicious.  I love sucking on those coconut rice sticks and dipping everything in that fish sauce including car keys.  The fried chicken as mentioned is Thigh meat which can be tough and stringy at times but always delicious.

But perhaps the best thing I’ve eaten at Somtum Der as of late was a mushroom special called Goi hed.  Name perhaps was invented by someone who thought the Beech mushrooms reminded them of uncircumcised penises (get it?).  It has all the elements of a nice and spicy Larb but without those chewy beeches losing that command.  A very well balanced dish that was perhaps part of a November mushroom celebration, but it could still be around if you hurry.  Love me a good mushroom dish

Somtum Der
85 Avenue A (East Village)
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Lemongrass Juice, Goi hed, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der, Moo Ping Kati Sod, Moo Rong Hai Der, Tum Thai Kai Kem

 

 

 

 

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Somtum Der and Hava Nagila Shoes

Somtum Der BarThe other day I went to a fairly lavish wedding.  There was caviar, lobsters, oysters, and all sorts of opulence.  Heck, I even had to not only wear a suit and tie, but also the special shoes that are hidden in the hers and hers closet.  The special Hava Nagila shoes!  You know, the ones that you only allowed can take out when there’s Hava Nagila involved.  Another words, a big, special event.  So we danced, we laughed, we cried, and we met some unexpected familiar faces which was a big surprise since I came expecting to know no one.  In fact when someone asked me how I’m related, I said “you know the mother of the bride?  I know her boss”  Meaning my wife.  That’s the only person I knew.  But on this day, with all the caviar and all the wonderful things I ate, the best things I ate was fried chicken and grilled marinated pork, just 5 hours earlier at Somtum Der with none other than the Hummus Whisperer.

Somtum Der Lemongrass drinkSomtum Der is the type of place you wouldnt caught me dead wearing Hava Nagila shoes.  Meaning she will kill me if I ever attempt this terrible crime.  But the place is pretty neat.  I normally avoid eating Thai outside of Hell’s Kitchen since Hell’s Kitchen is fairly represented.  You want Isan cooking, we got that.  You want Ratchaburi, Hell’s Kitchen got that too.  But there were two places outside of HK that I wanted to try for a long time.  Somtum Der and Uncle Boons.  One down, one to go.

Somtum Der is a newish Isan, joining Zabb Elee, Larb Ubol and the great Queens Isan joints.  Isan is the historically poor Northeast Thailand region.  Normally poor means a lot of seasoning to compensate for the otherwise uneatable meats and fish.  Poor = creative = opportunity.  Like the folks in Turin, Italy back in the day, who added hazelnuts to chocolates to compensate for the great cocoa shortage, hence opening the doors to Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and every chocolate with hazelnut out there you’ve enjoyed all those years.

Papaya salad

Papaya salad

This Isan feels different than the rest.  The Papaya here is king as the name implies (Somtum means Green Papaya Salad.  Der means Dare as in “I dare you Americans to eat our Green Papaya Salad”).  In fact, “Papaya King” was replaced in the title by “Hava Nagila shoes” midway through the article.  Yes, thats how I operate.  Sickening isnt it?  But dont worry, I’m seeking help.  The menu is filled with 8 papaya salads.  Like kindergartners, we chose the one on the menu with the biggest picture, the one that says “Recommended”, while the rest of them either said “Not Recommended” or “Not Obamacare Friendly” (meaning, Thai spicy).  Our Tum Thai Kai Kem, papaya salad with salted egg was just right.  Just what one would expect from a Papaya Salad.  Some traditionalists may expect something more fiery but it was just right.

“Sharing is Caring” is the motto here, eating with forks and fingers, no knives (just like in Laos inspired Khe-Yo.  Laos is Isan’s neighbor, sharing some of the dishes and traditions.  Papaya salad was actually invented in Laos).  The Khao Moo Tod Kratiam Prik, fried garlic pork with jasmine rice and fried egg was good, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der der-style deep-fried chicken thigh was one of the highlights.  Moist, juicy, very flavorful, and not greasy at all.  Moo Ping Kati Sod grilled coconut milk marinated beef skewers was another winner.  “Moo” oddly means pork, not beef, but you can sub it with beef.  A tiny bit dry but excellent profound sweet coconut flavors.  Perhaps the dish of the day was the Moo Rong Hai Derhouse special grilled marinated pork.  Fantastic seasoning producing deep lasting flavors, with two coconut rice sticks to help cool things off.  Just about each dish came with the house made hot sauce, other than the rice dish which came with fish sauce.  The only disappointment was the Sai Krok Isan, fried Isan sausages.  Not much flavor, or crunch on those sausages.  We tried to revive them with fish sauce, hot sauce, mouth to mouth to no avail

Marinated Pork

Marinated Pork

Dont leave without trying their refreshing Lemongrass Juice, and Thai Iced Tee.  In that order.  They were sadly out of the Taro in Condensed Coconut Milk, but the Thai Tee Panna Catta was surprisingly scrumptious.  It tasted just like Thai Iced Tea.  Cant wait to try the rest of the picture friendly menu

Somtum Der
85 Avenue A
$$
Recommended Dishes: Lemongrass Juice, Sa Poak Kai Tod Der, Moo Ping Kati Sod, Moo Rong Hai Der, Tum Thai Kai Kem

Rice and Pork

Rice and Pork

Beef Skewers

Beef Skewers

Chicken

Chicken

Sausages

Sausages

Somtum Der

Categories: East Village, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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