Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Sep 17, 2013 08:58 PM

Somtum Der (East Village)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Wow, thanks for the link. This sounds like the real deal. Zaab Elee really wasn't the real deal. I hope this guy puts out food like he says he does. I will try and report back. I have fond memories of the food I've had in Yasothon, and Khon Kaen.

    10 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      How are Zaab Elee and Pok Pok not the real deal according to you?

      1. re: Silverjay

        Yes, I'm curious too. Zabb Elee seems pretty "real" to me.

        1. re: Silverjay

          Zaab Elee has excellent Laab, and it is the real deal in that regard. Other dishes are lacking by a longshot. Not same taste of food I had while in Issan, nor what Issan girlfriend cooked. It's been awhile so I forget which dishes I liked other than the laab. but there was a terrible duck dish and a bad pork dish I had.
          Pok Pok's Khao Soi, which is the signature dish of Chiang Mai ,is not even close to what it should be. Uncle Boon's is much closer to what it should be. Pok Pok's lacked taste.
          Other dishes were good. Their laab was good but that's not really a Chiang Mai dish, their pig ear is great, their whole fish is really good. the papaya salad is very good. Maybe, it's kind of the real deal , and the servers turned me off a bit. But so did the Khao soii. The grilled chicken at Ngam is very good and very Chiang Mai, maybe because the chef is from there.

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            I haven't been to Issan to compare, but I quite like the Som Tum at Zabb. What do you think of it? I also have really liked every fish dish I've had there, especially the Larb Pla Krob and the special of the whole fried fish with the basil sauce.

            It sounds like the Som Tum at Somtum Der is a small portion that includes noodles and is sweet to boot, which I thought was a major no-no. Will have to try it soon regardless.

            1. re: loratliff

              The first page is totally the real deal and the principal appeal of both Zabb in EV and in Queens. I never really order beyond it. Variety and quality of som tum and laab are great. They use pla ra and real long bean (not string bean) in som tum and some offal in the laab, which is all rare here. And they will pound the shit out of as many chilis as you ask them. They are inconsistent according to a trusted source, although I haven't had any duds myself. The yang dishes are definitely inconsistent but can be really good here with a nice charcoal flavor and grilled crispy skin while still being juicy. It can be better at ZE than a lot of dry, gristley, and stringy street versions you'll get in Thailand.

              I went to Somtum Der the other night and tried about a half dozen dishes. I will write that up as soon as I get a chance.

              1. re: Silverjay

                in response to Loratiff, I do like the Som tum at Zaab Elee.
                Silverjay you say they use pla ra, I tasted what seemed to be more nam pa (nam pla). In Issan they use the really stinky one.Just like in Phillipines they use the bagoong isda, which is made same way as pla ra and stinks so much. Usually not served in restaurant because of the smell, more of a home ingredient. But I love it and cannot find it here. Occasionally I get someone to bring it back from Phillipines. As far as the Fried fish in basil sauce, I find that to be more of BKK type dish, fried fish I eat in Issan they like nam pa with it, or make som pla (sour fish). But I can be wrong, it's just my experience.
                I noticed the restaurant menu at Larb Ubol, has dishes that sound authentic Issan. But what bothered me is that the menu says for instance kai larb, i've always heard it said as larb (laab) kai. So it made me skeptical when seeing written that way, I'll try all the places eventually. And I look forward to reading Silverjays review of Somtum Der.
                btw the som tum at Ngam is very good and they make it in front of you.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  Huh? They use pla ra in the som tum at Zabb Elee. They translate as "pickled fish". If you want it funkier or fishier, I'm sure you can request it that way. It's just a matter of adding another spoonful or two. If you order the one called "som tum Thai", they will just use nam pla.....You can buy pla ra at the Thai markets in Woodside/Elmhurst, as well as the one on Mosco in CT, Asia Market on Mulberry, and maybe at Tan Tin Hung, which is a Viet market on Bowery. I mean even Hong Kong or big Chinese markets might have it too...I have some that I use at home. I bought it from the little market across from Ayada. The woman there, who is from Udon Thani I believe, told me she doesn't even like pla ra. Too stinky for her.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    lol many people don't like pla ra because so stinky. same with filipino bagoong isda ( ilocano), The stuff is fermented for quite a long time. They usually do in ceramic pots and even bury them because of the smell. Thats why it is rare for a restaurant to use it. Pickled fish or sour fish is som pla. ( som pa). I will look in queens doe pla ra, i know for bagging isda i have to get it from Ilocos , Phils

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      It's pla ra. Somtum Der also use it. They just translated it loosely as pickled fish. Follow my advice if you want to get your hands on it. There are several jarred and bottled brands to choose from.

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        i will surely take your advice and get some. thanks

      2. And another thank you. The menu looks & sounds great!

        1. This is not encouraging:

          but I still intend to check it out for myself. There's a lot on the menu that appeals to me.

          2 Replies
          1. re: small h

            Yes, I saw that.

            I think that report was something like a week after the place opened. Newness should not be an excuse for bad food or poor service, but it is more often than not an inevitable symptom.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Service wasn't bad...portions were just very small and everything lacked heat...i hope they adjust and prosper...

          2. I ate here about a week ago and enjoyed it - was thinking about making a thread myself but didn't get around to it. I like it a lot more than Zabb Elee which has been disappointing the past few times I've been. It is the NY branch of a restaurant in Bangkok, which is pretty exciting, no?

            We had the Tum Suo Der (house papaya salad), Moo Ping Kati Sod (pork skewers) and Larb Moo (pork salad).

            The papaya salad was a bit different from the som tum that I'm used to as it had noodles, and actually wasn't overly spicy - surprising since papaya salad is usually one of the spiciest dishes. I'm sure they can make it spicy if you ask.

            I really liked the pork skewers - delicious marinade and dipping sauce.

            I also liked the larb moo and I think their version is much better than the one at Zabb Elee. Spicier, tangier, basically better in all regards.

            The decor is pretty nice too. They have a picture menu which is very helpful if you are like me and order food based on what it looks like:

            Hoping to go back soon and try more of the menu, but it is definitely worth a visit.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pravit

              I just went for the second time tonight and I liked everything I ordered - tum poo plara, fried chicken, duck larb, pork skewers again, and gaeng om kai (chicken soup). Loved the fried chicken with the dipping sauce in particular, and the chicken soup. The som tum was pretty fiery today.

            2. I liked it too, but the service was crap (they were slammed and it was soft opening, so take that as you will) and the food was inconsistently spiced (some things really fiery, some not). Generally though, the food was quite good and the portions were fair for what they charge. Yes the portions are small, but I think nothing is over $12. You could order 2 or 3 things plus rice and stuff yourself for under $40. Good luck with that at Uncle Boons.

              1 Reply
              1. re: deprofundis

                i agree that Uncle Boons is wildly overpriced...but on a solo lunch at Som Tam Der i spent 33 bucks and left starving...i hope they increase the portions, because that price pt will not work in the EV