SomTum Gai Yang


SW 3rd and Stark

The Story:

Just when you thought another cart couldn’t fit on the expanding corner of SW 10th and Alder, you get an email about a new cart. The owners of SomTum Gai Yang contacted us a couple of weeks ago, announcing their opening. I mentioned it to a couple of fellow cart fans and within a couple of days was getting rave reviews about the food, so I decided to visit.

The name SomTum Gai Yang actually describes exactly what they serve. Som tum or som tam is a green papaya salad that is shredded in a way to make it look like noodles. It tastes a bit like jicima with a little sweetness. Almost like cabbage. Pair that with some carrots, cherry tomatoes, green beans and spice and you have a tasty meal. Gai Yang is Thai barbecued chicken. Put it all together and you have a great meal.

I decided to try the whole meal – SomTum Gai Yang – in order to taste all that they have to offer. I chose to get barbecued pork instead of chicken though. I’m always the troublesome one. The dish comes with a spicy sauce for the rice which is a sticky rice served in a bag and sealed to keep it sticky and moist. The salad was something I had never had. I actually thought the green papaya was noodles until my buddy told me otherwise. I ordered mine medium hotness and it was perfect. It wasn’t hot for hot’s sake, but more of a flavorful spicy hot. I may even ask them to go a bit hotter to see if the flavor intensifies. The pork was cooked perfectly and was a great compliment to the spicy salad. In the end, a great meal.

If you are a fan of Thai food, you should visit. They serve up only a few dishes, so they make those dishes special. I enjoyed that salad so much, I’m going to seek it out elsewhere to see how others prepare it. When you visit, let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Somtum – green papaya salad w/lime juice served w/ sticky rice – $6
  • Gai yang – Thai style BBQ Chicken served w/ sticky rice – $6
  • Moo yong – Thai roast pork w/ sticky rice – $6
  • Tum Polamai – fruit salad combines chopped red and green apples, pears, oranges, and strawberries w/ lime juice – $6
  • Somtum Gai Yang – combination of salad and bbq chicken or pork – $7

Contact: 503 522 9543 (call for pickup)



  1. For the love of god, please use a spell checker and/or proof-read your post.

    Maybe write it, then let it sit for an hour, and read it again. This will help you to spot your typos.

    In the very first sentence, you have “yetat” instead of “yet at.”

    You also used “server” twice instead of “serve.” There are more typos, but I’m not going to list them all.

    Overall, your writing is like that of a 14-year-old (at best). Would you consider letting somebody edit your writing?

  2. Post has been updated. Apologies Daniel for missing those.

  3. I tried the Som Tum Gai Yang (chicken bbq) combo yesterday.

    I liked the Som Tum (Papaya Salad), it tastes quite good. A crush roasted peanut topping would make this dish better.

    The Gai Yang (BBQ Chicken) meat was tasty.

    Unfortunately, I have 2 issue that they should improve with the chicken:
    1. The drumstick was too big and made it look unappealing.
    (Switch to a organic chicken or reputable chicken farm would address this issue)

    2. They need to perfect the BBQ/Roast time because the skin on the chicken felt like a dried ziploc bag.. I tried to use it as a wrap with some meat and papaya salad and ate it. I had to pull out from my mouth the whole skin.

    To the owner of Som Tum Gai Yang, I hope you take these as a constructive criticism. If you have these two issue addressed, I’ll bet words will get around and before you know it, you got a long line during lunch time.

  4. Daniel gets the 2010 Stick-up-the-Ass Award, and the year is less than 3 weeks old. Well played, you insufferable prig.

  5. Tried these guys today with the same order as in the article (owner recommended) and enjoyed it all quite a bit. The food was all fantastic but I was a bit dismayed by the rice in a bag. If that’s integral to the dish then I guess there’s not much you can do, but I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life, especially plastic that spends significant amounts of time in contact with hot steamy food.

  6. Jollypdx, I can understand your hesitation/dislike with the sticky rice in a plastic bag thing. That said, and if it is any consolation, that’s pretty much the way they serve it in Thailand, too.

  7. Thats awesome, you learn something new everyday. Thanks Bonne Femme.

  8. Had lunch there yesterday and enjoyed the Som Tum – gotta say
    YuM! Very satisfying food without wheat and extra calories for the health conscious. Will be back often. Must try the BBQ meat next time because the napkins smelled so wonderful 🙂

  9. Actually, The Guilty Carnivore, your comment isn’t much better than the original article.

    Besides fighting fire with fire, you comment should be corrected as follows:

    “Daniel receives the 2010 ‘Stick up the Ass Award’ and the year is less than 3 weeks old. Well played, you insufferable prig.”

    You see, there’s no comma necessary before the word ‘and’, nor is it necessary to hyphenate ‘Stick up the Ass’.

    Better luck next time, you petulant douchebag!

  10. I had lunch at SomTum Gai Yang today !!!!!!It was fantastic ,the bbq pork or pork chop was very good.I love somtum the most.Obviously I will be back.

  11. I stopped by here today for lunch after a recommendation from a friend. I got the title dish, SomTum Gai Yang (with chicken). Unbelievably tasty! The green papaya salad had just the right amount of spice with a hint of sweet. The chicken was tender and rich.

    Highly recommend this cart! The owners are quite friendly as well!

  12. I had the SomTum Gai Yang dish with pork. The papaya salad was phenomenal– light and tasty with the perfect hints of lime and spice. The pork was ok, but would have been much better had it not been overcooked?/from yesterday?/dried out? Anyhow, it was still good enough for me to eat the entire thing and I’ll definitely be going back to try the chicken. Plus the people were super nice, so thumbs up.

  13. I as well had the signature dish, SomTum Gai Yang with chicken, it was delicious. The experience brought me back to the streets of Bangkok where the food and people are pleasant and fulfilling to be around. I appreciate the paper containers that the food is served in (which is more expensive than the plastic alternative). The couple who own the cart smile and are truly friendly (something that some of the local merchants could use some help with). I look forward to making this card part of my ever expanding choice of lunch opportunities. If you like green papaya salad and want something a little different than other Thai restaurants, I highly recommend this cart!

  14. does this cart have any vegetarian options

  15. of course yes we have vegetarian options as
    #1 SomTum ;green papaya salad with lime juice served with sticky rice
    #2 TumSoor;green papaya salad mixed with rice noodle with lime juice served with sticky rice

    Desert: Coconut sweet sticky rice with Mango

    see ya soon!!!

  16. I hiked there from 2nd and Market today and it was really, really good. I haven’t found a good som yum in Portland until now. The spiciness level was just right and the chicken was good too. And Mmm! The mango and coconut! It looked like the mango was underripe, but it was actually fantastic. I would have walked twice as far for this food.

  17. The chicken was SOOOO good, and juicy!! Also the owners were knowledgeable, sociable. I ll definitely visit there again. YUMMMMM

  18. I tried Somtum Gai Yang today. I just love the combination of papaya salad, BBQ chicken and sticky rice so much. The chicken was so tasty. I really enjoyed sticky rice, which was nice and soft, with the chicken and lime juice from papaya salad. I will definitely be back.

  19. Hey Dave, the comma is certainly valid since there’s two independent clauses in my sentence. And you’re certainly unaware of the official “Stick-in-the-Ass” awards…it is always hyphenated, just like stick-in-the-mud, out of (long-standing) tradition. I’ll see you at this year’s awards ceremony. You forgot the “r” in “your” too.

    The Internet can now continue to exist.

  20. The couple who run this new cart are so friendly, it’s hard not to stop here every time I’m lunching off carts at 10th & Alder.

    I like the Som Tum Gai Yang (with chicken). The chicken flavor is additively smokey, but if you don’t like chicken on the bone you should get pork, because you tend to get a drumstick and a few pieces of bone-in breast. I haven’t had the problem with the skin being tough or dry, it’s always moist and also kind of smoked tasting.

    The veggies in the som tum are great, really fresh and the dressing’s not too fishy. Can’t wait till summer when there will (hopefully) be even more tomatoes along with the papaya and carrot. I get it medium-to-hot and the heat is perfect.

    I do agree with the comment that crushed peanuts would be a nice addition, but this meal is super tasty as it is.

  21. I tried the chicken/papaya salad combo at SomTum today. It was quite good! I think I’ll try the pork next time. (With the papaya salad still – which is the main “star” dish at this cart. The meat is almost an after thought to me once I start eating the salad.)

  22. I’m a huge fan of this cart…but have been disappointed in the chicken lately. I stopped by for lunch yesterday and received one drumsticks and two tiny chunks of chicken. One of which had zero meat on it – all fat and bones. And the chicken seems to be getting greasier and greasier. When they first opened they were serving a more generous portion, minus all the grease and fat.

    This is still one of my favorite carts….their papaya salad is AMAZING…so I may just switch to pork until they can get their chicken dialed in a bit better…..

  23. We re now serving

    Kao Kha Moo ; pork leg stew w/egg and fresh pickled mustard green over rice

    Palo Gai; chicken stew w/egg and fresh pickled mustard green over rice

    p.s you can follow us at

  24. I’m a fan of this cart! I’ve had the Som Tum Gai Yang (BBQ chicken/ Papaya Salad) combo Several times and never been disappointed. you really should try it!

    They added two new dishes recently….

    Khao Kha Moo – Pork leg stew w/egg and fresh pickled mustard green over rice

    Palo Gai – chicken stew w/egg and fresh pickled mustard green over rice

    I had the Palo Gai for lunch today and it was very good…. But, I definitely prefer the Khao Kha Moo

  25. I tried this place when it first opened and I was definitely underwhelmed. The Gai Yang was good, but it’s just chicken and rice — for me not a very satisfying lunch.

    The other day I was walking by, saw their new menu items and decided to give them another chance. Boy am I glad I did! The Khao Kha Moo (Pork stew) was fantastic. A couple of days later I went back and had it again. I’ve also tried the Palo Gai (chicken stew), which I liked very much, but the pork version is better. Both versions came with pickled mustard greens, which I’d never had before and are now one of my favorite vegetables.

    SomTum Gai Yang, keep expanding your menu with more items like these two and you’ll likely become one of the best carts downtown.

  26. I spent 6 months in Thailand volunteering, and Som Tum was one of my favorite dishes. Beside pok pok (and at a better price) this is the only place in the past I’ve found where it tastes EXACTLY the same! THANK YOU!

  27. Thanks for the many comments. After becoming engrossed in the detective series set in Bangkok, written by John Burdett, starting with “Bangkok Eight” through “Godfather of Kathmandu”, my mouth has been watering for this dish. If you google Som Tum or Som Tam, you may find a young lady who lives in NE Thailand, named Joy, who includes her own receipe for Som Tum.

    From what Burdett describes, this dish can be very hot, should many red and green peppers be added. They even use fermented crab.

    Now, off to try.

  28. Went there today. Got the Som Tum Gai Yang w/Chicken.

    I would say the standout is the Som Tum. I got only medium heat and I am glad I did. Anything more would be almost impossible to eat.

    The chicken was ok, skin not the greatest. I like mine crispy and this was not.

    Overall I would easily come back for the Som Tum but get my protein elsewhere.

  29. I have quickly become a regular here – these two serve such good, healthy, authentic thai cuisine, that it’s impossible not to crave their food.

    If you get som tum, ask for the dried shrimp – they don’t advertise it like they should, but it makes the meal complete.

    I’d agree that the chicken can be a little fatty some days (the idea to switch to local poultry was a good idea), and the crushed peanuts would bring a bit more flavor – but these two are on the right track.

  30. I like the “”Filipino”” version better which I think is called “Atchara”. A slight hint of “patis” is the key to great “Atchara”. The reason for having “Atchara” with a meal is to help digest the huge amounts of meat that an Ilocano would normally at a fiesta. It’s an agrarian thing that is currently paraded around like salad by others. Give me some “atchara”!

  31. Just had the pa lo gai for lunch — it was fantastic! The flavors were very well balanced, and the dipping sauce just pushed it over the top. Thanks to batwon for the great food!

  32. I had Kao Kha Moo, an aroma of the stew pork was amazing but when I tasted it the texture of the pork reminded me of pulled pork. It was way to shreded and very dried , it was like chewing on tissue paper. When I had that dish in Thailand, the pork usually in chunk pieces and sliced thin. Also, I was waiting for just one order for 40 minutes when there were four people ahead of me.

  33. Yet another dish has been added recently and I highly recommend it – the Khao Soi, a curry noodle soup with onion, cilantro, your choice of chicken or tofu, and crispy noodles on top. Having previously enjoyed both the chicken and pork with the sticky rice and papaya salad, I was excited to try something new today. Ohhh the flavors were so great! Highly recommended, $6. I’d love to know if they’d do it with the pork as well, since it seems everything else they offer is adaptable with chicken or pork.

  34. Thank you for the comment Jennifer and glad you love our food so far.In the future we maybe make Khao Soi w/pork or beef.
    Please come back try our new item soon!!! in the winter coming up!!
    thanks again!!

  35. The Khao Soi is amazing. Must try!

  36. This is savory, delicious, well balanced food for very little money when you do the restaurant math.

  37. I love this food. However, I can’t go back until they clean up their act. There is often only one (very polite) person working at this cart. On two occasions I have constructively complained about preparing food and handling money without hand washing nor gloves involved. I know I will not get Swine flu, but money is filthy. I have read Kitchen Confidential and there are way worse things that happen, but hey I am watching my meal being prepared at a cart. It is just unappetizing that’s all. Please kind sir, reply to this post and let me know you will wash your and/or use gloves before you chop vegetables etc.

  38. I just had the Khao Soi here and it was delicious! The portion size was extremely small however. I would say about a cup of food. For $6 and in comparison to the other carts or restaurants it was just way too small. I don’t think I will purchase this here again. I got it with tofu and there were about 5 or 6 bite size pieces of tofu in it. Please comment if you’ve had or haven’t had this experience here. Perhaps I just got unlucky today. In any event the dish was extremely tasty.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FoodCartsPortland, Kristin Vanderburgh and juyeda, Natalie Ross. Natalie Ross said: RT @PDXfoodcarts: SomTum Gai Yang, both a new food cart and the name of a great meal. SW 10th and Alder – #pdxfoodcarts […]

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