It's not difficult to find Isaan food, the cuisine of North East Thailand and Laos, in Bangkok. But it can often, disappointingly, lack the trademark frenzied and funky flavours the food is known for. Not so at Som Tam Jay So in Bangkok's downtown Silom district which overflows with office workers at lunch.
The signature is the almost 20 versions of Isaan favourite som tam, shredded papaya salad. Expect varieties stretching from the simple som tam Thai made with lime juice, green beans, tomatoes and tiny dried shrimps through to som tam pu pla ra, a darker, funkier version with fermented fish sauce and tiny salted crabs.
Rows of red metal tables here are spread across the outdoor footprint of the owner's house and spill out along the edge of the street. It would be a welcome respite from the busy streets near by if it wasn't for the hoards of customers that descend each day. The rudimentary kitchen area sits across the pavement outside and home's covered garage area - a cluttered area of drum barbecues, hanging wires, a large TV showing Thai soaps and ice boxes centred around a metal som tam cart
Som Tam Jay So is open from 11am through to 6pm. If you can avoid the peak lunch hours, do. The menu is in Thai and orders are taken by a Thai-written notepad. Your only options are to take a lucky dip or try to communicate with the friendly staff. If all else fails, head to the cart and point to what you'd like. Prices for the dishes hover between 45-70 THB (around US $1.50-2.25). Three to four dishes are perfect for two.