A while back, I asked fellow Bangkok-based blogger and likewise graduate of the University of Oregon, Sirin, about her favourite places to eat in Bangkok. Without hesitation she mentioned Somsong Phochana, a shophouse restaurant in Bangkok's Banglamphu neighbourhood. I ate there for the first time not long after our chat, and after a few subsequent visits, suspect that Somsong may also be nudging its way onto my own favourites list.
Somsong is actually the name of the current owner's deceased mother, who started the restaurant more than 40 years ago. A native of Sukhothai, she began by selling curries and stir-fries, and later also sold the signature dish of her hometown, kuaytiaw Sukhothai, Sukhothai-style noodles. The dish is still available today:
and appears to be the reason most people visit Somsong. Kuaytiaw Sukhothai combines thin rice noodles, a sweet broth, thinly-sliced long bean, various cuts of pork, and a topping of deep-fried pork rind. The version here also includes - unusually - crunchy squares of salted radish and ground peanuts. But despite the accolades and fans, I found the dish (both the 'dry' and broth versions) overly sweet and one-dimensional, lacking the meatiness and oily richness of the versions I've encountered up in Sukhothai.
Instead, what brings me back to Somsong is the restaurant's excellent central Thai-style curries and spicy stir-fries. In particular, you're safe ordering just about anything that contains the restaurant's look chin plaa kraay, dumplings make from a type of freshwater fish. Tender and pleasantly fishy, they're some of the best I've encountered in Bangkok, and feature in several dishes including Somsong's excellent green curry (pictured at the top of this post). If you've only encountered green curry at Thai restaurants abroad or at places that predominately serve foreigners, you might initially be disappointed, as the curry itself is rather thin and watery and has little of the coconut milk creaminess that I suspect many have come to associate with the dish. Instead, the emphasis is on taste, not texture, and an effort is made towards a balance of sweet and savoury, with tender eggplants providing a slightly bitter kick. The curry above was served over khanom jeen noodles instead of rice, and as with many central Thai dishes that include fish or seafood, also included thin strips of krachaay (a root herb with a camphor-like flavour), which serve to counter any unpleasant fishy flavour.
On a previous visit I had a somewhat more traditional green curry with chicken, accompanied by a spicy stir-fry of frog:
And on my most recent visit there was a tempting kaeng matsaman, but as usual, I went for the green curry.
I've also been told that Somsong does excellent desserts, but I'm usually too full to investigate. For more descriptions of the dishes at Somsong, proceed to Sirin's write-up, here.
Somsong Phochana Soi Wat Sangwet, Bangkok 02 282 0972 9.30am-4pm
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