Starting as a collaboration of friends Thanaruek (Eh) Laoraowirodge and Kornthanut Thongnum who have close ties to the Isan region, Somtum Der incorporates Chef Korn's thoughtfully conceived recipes to showcase the best of Northeastern Thai cuisine, with sharp contrasts in flavors, abundant use of Thai chilis, lime juice, palm sugar and fermented fish sauce. They have partnered with long time family friend, Supanee Kitmahawong, a Bangkok transplant who has been actively involved in restaurant management and ownership in New York City for more than a decade. The team has turned their focus to New York’s Somtum Der, with the objective of offering New Yorkers the opportunity to taste the food and culture of Isan.
The restaurant’s genuine spirit of Isan is reflected in every bite. Starting from the name of the restaurant with somtum (papaya salad), the most famous Isan food and the word der, a common suffix widely used in Isan region to indicate a warm invitation.
Foods & Drinks
The distinctive taste of Isan food can be differentiated from central Thai food with more chili, more herbs, and less sugar. Eh described the food from his hometown as “simple yet sophisticated in ingredients." Hence, Somtum Der’s demanding task is to source the most authentic ingredients for Isan food in New York. It is a great effort that pays off as every dish on Somtum Der’s menu brings you closest in taste to what you can come across in the northeastern part of Thailand, using special ingredients such as Thai basil, homemade fermented fish sauce (plara), or palm sugar. Unlike many foreign restaurants that tried to cater to local palates, the original taste has never been compromised at Somtum Der.
The food is served in appropriate portions in order for each table to collectively enjoy and share a wide range of foods together. A long list of somtum goes on with 8 varieties, together with a list of light dishes on the menu like Der Styled Deep Fried Chicken Thigh (Sa Poak Kai Tod Der), Fried Khon Kaen’s Pork Roll (Moo Yor Tod Khon Kaen), Deep-fried Spicy Minced Pork (Larb Tod), Grilled Coconut Milk Marinated Pork Skewers (Moo Ping Kati Sod) and many more.
For those who would like to opt for less-challenging and more comfort-oriented dishes, Somtum Der also offers central Thai food from a sister restaurant in Bangkok, Supanniga Eating Room. Rice and noodle dishes from Eh’s grandmother’s home-cooked recipes, Thai comfort food with a bit of creativity like Special Pad Thai made with crabmeat and crab paste (Pad Thai Mun Poo) and Spicy flat rice noodles, wok-fried with ground pork and crispy basil leaves (Pad Ki Mao Pork & Basil) are options to choose from.
With hot and spicy food, there is nothing more refreshing than sweet and cool desserts such as Thai local favorites Snow Ice with Syrup, Black Jelly with Fresh Milk or Taro in Condensed Coconut Milk. A touch of uniqueness does not end with the food. Somtum Der’s beverages such as rosella and lemongrass herbal juices can be ordered along with savory dishes, as well as unique alcoholic drinks including signature rosella and lemongrass Martinis, which use house-infused vodka and roasted rice or Thailand’s ubiquitous spirits like Singha beer and Mekong rum-based cocktails.