ESSENCE OF ISAN

WHENEVER SOMTUM IS MENTIONED IN HCMC, most people would think of the Thai restaurant Somtum Der Ho Chi Minh City, which serves Isan cuisine (with the north-eastern region of Thailand being ‘Isan’ in Sanskrit).

By Van Ngoc on April 20,2018 11:26 AM

ESSENCE  OF  ISAN

But somtum (papaya salad) is also a popular and authentic Thai appetiser, with a strong taste from mixing spicy and fresh papaya with sauce.

There are also Sontum restaurants in Bangkok, New York and Tokyo. Somtum Der Ho Chi Minh City is located on the second floor of an old building on Pasteur Street, offering a traditional Isan ambience in a contemporary design. Wood is in abundance inside, which also gives a natural touch.

ESSENCE  OF  ISAN

The central attraction is its somtum bar; an open kitchen where guests can watch the dish being freshly prepared. The décor creatively embraces daily Isan craftsmanship, like sticky rice steaming baskets and fish traps, which look very impressive under the restaurant’s unusual lighting system. The ceiling is beautifully decorated with bamboo lamps while the walls are adorned with artwork made from traditional Isan loincloth, with hand painting depicting stories of the Isan way of life and its exotic culture.

Given its location, Isan cuisine is influenced by both Vietnam and Laos. Authentic dishes are known as being healthy, expressing the simplicity and great combination of fresh ingredients that create a balance of flavour. There are also Isan dishes that have become typical dishes of Thailand, such as somtum, larb (spicy minced meat salad) and many grilled dishes.

Papaya salad is, of course, the highest at Somtum Der Ho Chi Minh City, in varieties such as spicy papaya salad with vermicelli in fermented fish sauce, spicy papaya salad with grilled pork neck, and Isan-style papaya salad with fermented fish sauce. And one of the most popular somtum is papaya salad with salted egg. The menu is also bursting with a wide range of Thai - Isan dishes, including salads, soups, deep-fried and grilled dishes, rice, noodles and desserts.

ESSENCE  OF  ISAN

For lunch, our eight-strong group ordered a range of favourite dishes and shared. It was a large meal of eight courses and included Isan-style papaya with fermented fish sauce, coconut shoots somtum with shrimp, deep-fried minced catfish served with sour green mango sauce, central Thailand-style deep-fried fish cakes, Pad Thai with shrimp, grilled pork neck, spicy herbal Tomyum soup with shrimp, and sticky rice. It felt like a journey to Isan and I heartily recommend the restaurant to those who love true Isan food.

Its lunch set menu costs VND250,000 for two while its dinner set menu is VND390,000. The a la carte menu starts from VND55,000 per dish.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Somtum Der Ho Chi Minh City

Thai-ISAN cuisine

136 Pasteur St., D.1, HCMC

Tel: 0902 942 457

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