Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

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KK Food Reviews: Som Tum Thai Restaurant

Thai restaurants are popular everywhere and there’s been a mushrooming of Thai restaurants in various part of Borneo. In Brunei and Sabah, we witnessed a growing demand for Thai cuisine. Unfortunately, a lot of Thai restaurants tend to lack authenticity as they changed recipes to cater to local taste buds, toning down the rich bold flavours and leaning towards the saltier and sweeter side, thus losing the essence of Thai cooking. In some restaurants, it leaned more towards Thai – Chinese fusion dishes much to our disappointments.

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I was excited to hear that an authentic Thai restaurant has opened around Cyber Square in Sabah and decided to pop over to try it out.


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The restaurant’s name is Som Tum. The word ‘Som Tum’ is actually a name for a popular Thai dish; shredded green papaya salad. Som Tum’s white furniture as well as pictures with foodie quotes on the wall gives off a welcoming feel but I have to say it doesn’t give you the feeling of walking into a Thai restaurant, which could be a good thing.


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The last thing you need is a pretentious Thai restaurant overloaded with decorations and trying too hard. Som Tum offers a straightforward clean and cozy ambience for diners. There are two floors and we decided to sit upstairs to cater for our big group.


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Som Tum serves a wide variety of Thai inspired beverages but the two recommended drinks were their Thai Milk Tea, also called Cha Yen, it blends characteristically well with Thai cuisine use of coconut milk and spices Served over ice, this is the perfect complement for a spicy Thai meal. We also tried their refreshing iced lemon tea, which pairs well with the strong rich flavours.  Mango sticky rice is also served here but I can’t comment as I haven’t tried it here but with the consistency of good quality food, I would say it’s a safe bet to try it out!


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For appetizers, we had Somtum Mamuang; shredded unripe mangoes salad, which is an adaptation to the widely popular green papaya salad.


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The sourness of the unripe mangoes go very well with the pungent flavours of fish sauce and ikan bilis, as well as the heat from the chilies but I would prefer the original green papaya version, which is not as sour.  


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The Pandan Chicken flavour was well balanced and not overcooked like usual subpar Thai restaurants.


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The sun dried beef, which is marinated pieces of beef, sun dried and then deep fried. It reminds me of beef jerky, but packed with more flavour and less tough.


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The final appetizer was Khai Yad Sai; stuffed omelet, slightly undercooked to give a creamy texture to complement the minced chicken and vegetables.


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In Thai cuisine, nothing screams Thai food more than Tom Yum Soup and Som Tum’s version, Tom Yum Nam Khon, usually thicker, richer and stronger in flavors than typical Tom Yum due to additional ingredients of roasted chili paste (nam prik pao) and full cream milk. Needless to say, we enjoyed the richness of the soup, slurping to our hearts content!


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Darren was very kind to serve us with the delicious soup!


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The fragrance of basil from the Green Curry greeted us when it arrived at the table ~~~


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which was delicious with the Thai style pineapple fried rice, served inside a whole pineapple!


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We also ordered the Green Curry fried rice, which a strong hint of green chilies and basil and pretty spicy; good to eat on its own but I preferred the pineapple fried rice to complement the other dishes.


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Phad Thai is another dish not to be missed in Som Tum, as it’s pretty authentic, using the correct type of rice noodles and ingredients unlike pretentious sub-par Thai restaurants labeling their sweetened up char kway teow as Phad Thai.


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For the mains, we ordered Pla Tod Sam Rod, deep fried whole fish with three flavours according to the menu, but to me, it’s a spiced up version of sweet and sour whole fish, bursting with flavours from the garlic and herbs!


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The sight of Sambal Petai on the menu ensured that we must order it and it was a delicious combination with the prawns! Unfortunately, despite a large array of Thai style Kang Kung dishes in the menu, we were simply too full to try them out. Najib would not be pleased!


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Overall, I must say Som Tum serves a delectable array of authentic Thai cuisine in a pretty cozy comfortable setting. The service from the waiting staff is pleasant, giving us an enjoyable dining experience, though the food does take some time to come out. If you’re in a mood for Thai food, Som Tum will be a great choice! 


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Som Tum Thai Restaurant,

Lot M6, Cyber Square Commercial Centre, Penampang,

88590 Kota Kinabalu,

Tel: 088-743217

View Larger Map

Driving directions from Imperial Boutec Hotel to Som Tum Thai Restaurant

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