中英版本 – English & Traditional Chinese
Last year during the first time that restrictions in London were lifted, I had the privilege of enjoying a pleasant lunch at Som Saa joined by co-founder Tom George. I first heard of Som Saa from my Thai friends, who were always very enthusiastic about the restaurant, and had good things to say about it. So last spring when Andy and I had just returned from Bangkok after a long holiday in Asia, we decided to pay them a visit. After keeping this great spot in my pocket for the last year, here it is – my sincere review on Som Saa.
Having just been to Thailand and gotten accustomed to the different regional styles and dishes, we knew that Thai food was more than just pad thai, red/yellow/green curries or tom yum, which while delicious in their own right, have become synonymous with Thai cuisine in Anglo-Thai restraurants. Tom recommends a few starters for us to enjoy, such as tod mun pla, a red curry fishcake; dtam baa, made with green papaya, lotus shoots, coconut palm and pickled mustard greens, all pounded into a “jungle-style” salad; sai ua, an aromatic smoked Northern Thai-style sausage.
Sai ua, the northern Thai pork sausage was something that I fell in love with during my time in Thailand, and I was over the moon to be able to find it in London. Galangal, lemongrass, fermented shrimp paste, curry paste and other herbs are pounded together, mixed with local British pork, and stuffed into little sausages that are packed with big and strong flavours.
The restaurant starts to get busy, and Tom goes off to help out the front-of-house staff. Occassionally he returns to check on us and we talk a bit more about the restaurant and about our common love for cameras. After a while, the starters are followed by a stream of mains, this time, a handsomely presented whole sea bass – nahm dtok plaa thort – that’s deep fried until the skin is crisp and crackling, and even the bones are edible, an indulging beef massaman curry with fatty melt-in-the-mouth beef and laab, another one of my Northern-Thai-style favourites, which consists of a salad, containing usually chicken, duck or pork mince, topped with crispy skin, deep fried shallots, deep fried Thai garlic and other spices.
To finish off the meal, Tom selected two of their desserts for us – their palm sugar ice cream served with a turmeric-grilled banana, and mango ice cream served with sticky rice. The sweet and aromatic flavour of palm sugar has always been a delight since we discovered it from Thai cooking, and is truly delectable when paired with the turmeric-spiced banana, which develops a sticky, chewier texture after being grilled.
在英國要吃泰國菜不難找，但要吃到擺脫英式泰菜框架的餐廳，那就少之又少。英國人愛吃 Pad Thai、冬陰功湯、各式椰奶咖哩等等，但是 Som Saa 成功跳出了這個舒適圈，在東倫敦 Spitalfields 開展出讓味蕾迸發的創意泰菜，就連我唸書時認識的一群泰國人都讚不絕口。
吃了兩次 Som Saa，都在去年疫情稍微緩和的時候，二訪時還幸運約到了共同創辦人 Tom George 為我們介紹，得到了許多寶貴的知識，雖然很想早點把這個口袋名單交出來，但中間疫情實在起伏太大，一直在等待好時機，最近疫苗打得差不多，夏天也快結束（哭），適合在不能旅行的日子回味泰國風情。
去年初正好去泰國度假了一趟，回來倫敦後特別想念幾道在台灣都不常聽見的泰國菜，沒想到全部都可以在 Som Saa 找到，特別是我心心念念的泰北香腸和泰北咖哩雞腿湯麵 (現在好像沒了)。吃慣了台式香腸和香港臘腸後，再頭一次吃到 Sai ua 泰北版本真的驚喜滿滿，是截然不同的清新香料風味。
Som Saa 的兩位英國主廚 Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver 曾師從西方泰菜圈名廚 David Thompson，加上曾在倫敦 Hawksmoor 和其他餐廳有豐富工作經驗的 Tom George，這個名字取自東南亞一種苦橙的可愛餐廳就此誕生。餐廳原本是老布料倉庫，因此還保留了很有味道的老木地板和內裝。
幾道前菜：Tod mun la 紅咖哩炸魚餅充滿滿滿的海味鹹香，配上餐廳自製的甜辣椒醬清爽開胃。Miang Kham 是我第一次聽到的菜，檳榔葉包著海鮮和辛香料的一口吃料理，在東南亞各地有不同的作法。Som Saa 家選用了英國 Dorset 的螃蟹，配上柚子、烤椰子、魚露、薑黃、辣椒等等，一口入舌能吃到海味和濃濃的南洋風情。「叢林式」的泰式沙拉 Dtam Baa，有青木瓜、蓮藕、鮮竹筍、椰子肉、酸菜、魚露等，辣度沒有在客氣調整成英國口味，值得嘉許。想念台灣蝦鬆吃法和肉燥飯味道的人，可以試試看 Laab，是泰北經典菜之一，散著濃濃油蔥香的炒絞肉包進去新鮮生菜裡一起吃，超級過癮！
幾道主菜的表現都超級讚，尤其還有蒸糯米和泰式香米一起配著吃，餐廳招牌菜酥炸全鱸魚讓人驚艷 (nahm dtok plaa thort)，魚皮跟內骨都炸得酥脆可入口，肉質卻不會過老，底下鋪得醬汁拌飯我可以連續吃三餐不會膩。
咖哩也是在倫敦少見的口味，點了 Beef Massaman (gaeng massaman neua)， 咖哩醬汁濃郁，搭配的馬鈴薯選得是 ratte potato，有種綿密柔滑的口感，與牛香搭配得很好，美中不足是牛腩部位稍微太肥了，吃多會膩。又辣又香的石斑魚綠咖哩 (gaeng baa plaa -jungle curry of stone bass)，燉得軟爛的泰國直送茄子，搭配散發特殊香氣的檳榔葉和打拋葉，好好吃。
想在倫敦找個有好喝調酒、有好吃泰菜、有創意泰味、有漂亮裝潢的地方，就是 Som Saa 了。