A recurring theme in Thailand post-covid is that nobody dares make food spicy anymore. I mean, not even small local stores where they don't speak a lick of English. They see a white face and they panic and serve bland, boring food. Somtum is by definition supposed to be spicy, so I headed here with joyous exterior and death inside, to witness what meal would greet me.
Let's just say it was a mixed bag.
The lady freaked out when I came, and nervously shuffled to the back and hid. I managed to coax her out and mentioned that I wanted my somtum PHET PHET. She nodded and I believed she understood. She didn't.
My food came out, along with sticky rice and a piece of chicken thigh (Words had been bestowed on their chicken prowess), and I merrily tucked in. Somtum, tasty but no spice whatsoever. I ran back and asked for a handful of chillies which I butchered in-situ, added to my salad and continued munching. Better. Much better.
She peeked out a couple times to see if I was still alive. Honey, this was a 5/10 on the spice scale. Don't worry, I'm not one of those package tourists who balks at a peppercorn and sends the food back expecting to not pay.
Overall the somtum was tangy and bright, the chicken juicy and smokey and the sticky rice, well, sticky.
I'll come back for sure, but I'll try and convince the staff with more gusto that I really, really want it hot.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"