There are only four tables in Som Sri’s tom yum shop in front of Bangkok City Hall. That means if you come for lunch, either get here early or be prepared to wait. But the wait is worth it. That’s because the tom yum in Sor Naa Wang might just be the greatest tom yum of your life.
“It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s the best in town,” explains Soon, my Urban Adventures guide for the day. “She uses only good quality ingredients. Everyone talks about her soup.”
In this case, ‘more expensive’ means 100 baht, or about $4 — still a bargain for most travellers even if it’s above the typical price of street food in Bangkok. And when your bowl comes, piping hot and enough for four people to share, the ‘expensive’ moniker seems even more absurd. Som Sri’s soup is loaded with mushrooms and giant prawns, and seasoned with galangal, lemongrass, kefir lime leaves, fish sauce, lime juice, and sweet chili paste. The flaming red colour of it makes it look spicy, but it’s not at all — that is unless you want to add some heat with the crushed chilies provided on the tables.
Soon recommends ordering a side dish of water mimosa stir-fried in oyster sauce, known as pad pak ka ched (water mimosa is a plant that grows in water and has a taste similar to cabbage) and an icy glass of longan juice (longan is a fruit similar to lychee or rambutan). As we eat the feast, Soon points out the characteristics that set Som Sri’s cooking apart: the soup is not too thick, she says, and the longan juice is not overly sweet like in some other places. And the fried water mimosa is heavenly enough to make even the staunchest non-vegetable-eater salivate.
Som Sri’s shop has been in this same spot in Phra Nakhon for some 20 years, after she moved it from its former spot in front of Wangburapa Plaza in the city centre (fun fact: the name of her restaurant, Sor Naa Wang, is a mash-up of her name and former location). The tiny size of her stall means that line-ups are frequent, but thankfully, the turnover is quick as hungry locals acknowledge they’re not the only ones queuing up on their lunch breaks. On some days, the shop next door to Sor Naa Wang closes, and Som Sri can put out an additional two tables on the sidewalk, bringing her seating space up to six tables — which might not sound like much, but when your soup is so good that there’s a queue to get in the front door, every extra seat counts.
How to find it: Across the street from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration City Hall. On Dinso Road at Siri Phong Road, just south of the river.
What to order: tom yum (hot and sour soup), pad pak ka ched (stir-fried water mimosa), nam lam yai (longan juice).
Bangkok’s old town may be tourist central, but there’s way more than just bad pad Thai to be found – that is, if you know where to look. That’s because hidden among the overpriced restaurants and mediocre food carts are secret gems that locals love, and many of these spots have been around for decades – since way before backpackers started gathering on Khao San Road.