Love Thai food? Then I'm guessing you may very well know which region of Thailand 'som tam' (papaya salad) comes from. For those of you who don't know, it comes from the northeast region of the country, known as Isaan.
Isaan has its own language, a dialect derived from the Lao language, but written in Thai alphabet. Their food is hotter, they don't use coconut as liberally as the rest of Thailand and it gets so freakin' hot during the early part of the year.
A friend of my dm's who is Isaan has to eat som tam everyday, otherwise she just doesn't function very well at all. It's akin to those who have to drink a shot of caffeine when they wake up or those who have to eat potatoes everyday. The last one may sound a little absurd, but I knew a guy back in my uni days who had eat potatoes everyday. No, he wasn't Irish, although he may have had Irish blood running somewhere down the line. Each to their own I say, each to their own.
Now, pretty much every Thai girl, woman, man who-is-watching their figure that I know simply loves som tam. Why? It's tasty, it's cheap, it's healthy and did I say it's tasty? OH yes, it sure is. I love it too. And yes, I am a woman who-is-watching her figure.
On Soi Convent off the busy Silom road, you'll find the aptly named Hai Som Tam Convent on the right hand side as you walk up from Silom. Not hard to spot, just look for a big space with strip light ceiling and bright plastic green stools:
It's farang friendly, meaning the menu has been translated into english and some of the serving staff can converse in the language too. Otherwise, just use the universal sign language of pointing to what you want on the menu.
Works like a dream, unless the font is so small that it makes your finger look like a podgy sausage and no matter how much accuracy you aim for, sometimes the wrong dish inevitably gets ordered. Yeah, happened to me once, can't remember where, wasn't in Thailand, but let's just say it definitely wasn't what I intended to order.
As I read through the menu, I couldn't help but watch the chef chopping the grilled chicken (gai yang) just in front of me. Of course I had to get me some of that juicy looking meat.
And here is half of my lunch: sticky rice (khao niew) 15Baht, small portion of grilled chicken 70Baht (or 100Baht for large portion). Comes with a plate of raw cabbage and green beans, and sprigs of fresh Thai basil. The two chilli sauces are a hot and a sweet.
The other half, som tam at 40Baht is a decent size. Freshly grated papaya, dried shrimps, peanuts, tomato, chilli, green beans all in a yummy, ever so slightly sweet dressing. Just be careful if you don't or can't take hot chilli, just ask for it without. I ordered mine with just a little chilli and I found it fairly spicy. Many locals think I am a bit of a chilli wuss. Compared to them, I am!
I got here before the lunch time rush so service was quick and attentive. There are loads of waiting staff so even during busy times, service will still be quick.
This place is clean and I even got lots of friendly smiles and laughs as I took my pictures. They didn't seem to mind at all. If you're in the area and looking for a som tam place, take a visit to Hai Som Tam Convent.
Otherwise if you live fairly close by but can't be bothered to venture out, they do deliver at a charge of 80Baht. Although I am not sure how easy it would be to order if you can't speak Thai, would love to find out ....
Hai Som Tam Convent
2/4-5 Soi Convent, Silom, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0)2 631 0216 / 2514
Nearest BTS: Sala Daeng