This Thai green papaya salad recipe called som tam or som tum is one of my all time favorite salad recipes. I learned to make it in Thailand in Chiang Mai at a cooking class at an organic farm.
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The name som means sour and tam or tum means to pound, referring to the sound made of the pestle pounding the ingredients in the mortar.
It is served as a snack or sometimes as a first course or along side other Thai specialties as part of a meal. However you serve it, you will love it.
It turns out that this dish has often been listed on the top 50 foods of world in CNN polls, it is no surprise as it is a scrumptious bite.
Unlike traditional salads this recipe has no oil in it, it is fish sauce, lime and a little palm sugar with garlic that brings the flavors together.
Main Ingredients you will need to make the Salad
There are just few ingredients that you need to make this Thai Green Papaya salad recipe that you might need to pick up at your local Asian markets.
Green Papaya. This is an unripe papaya and you want to find one that is really green with no soft spots or brown spots. If you can't find a green papaya you could substitute cabbage, green mango, or cucumber. The thin strips of the papaya is the perfect way to impart the flavors of the dressing. It is on its own bland with little flavor but a nice texture which is why you could use cabbage, green mango or cucumber as a substitute.
Long Beans: These are a very long and skinny green bean that add a nice crunchy texture to the dish. They are sometimes called snake beans.
Thai Chiles: These are small little red chilies that are fiery hot on the Scoville scale. Sometimes they are called birds-eye chilies. You can add how ever many to your heat tolerance. Generally speaking Thai people eat there food very spicy.
Palm sugar: a staple in Thai cuisine that usually is found in little discs or a block which can be grated. It adds a wonderful caramelized sweetness to the salad. You could always substitute brown sugar in a pinch.
Fish sauce: Get a good one, if you want to make it a Lao papaya salad you could use a fermented fish sauce which has a more intense umami flavor. You could use soy sauce in a pinch but it won't have the same flavor. Some recipes call for dried shrimp or even salted crab.
Other ingredients you can easily find at your local grocery store is garlic cloves, roasted peanuts, or raw peanuts you can roast yourself lime for fresh lime juice, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes and salt.
Getting the green papaya into thin strips it is easiest to use a julienne peeler like this one. Or if you are skilled you can use a sharp knife and a regular peeler like it is shown here although it really takes practice so the julienne peeler is much safer.
If you use a julienne peeler, peel the skin with a regular vegetable peeler or knife first, cut the papaya in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and then use your julienne peeler on the peeled papaya.
You should first pound the dressing ingredients and then add the papaya at end and mix it all together in a large bowl. The peanuts are usually added at the end and tossed or used as a garnish. It should be served with extra lime.
Whatever you do, avoid using a food processor to mix the dressing ingredients.
Once you put all the ingredients together the taste should be spicy, salty, and little bit sweet and sour, delicious!
Other Thai Recipes you can serve with Thai Green Papaya Salad
It would also be delicious with chicken satay with peanut sauce.
for Dessert Bananas in coconut milk
You can also serve it with sticky rice
You of course can enjoy Thai green papaya salad on its own or as a side dish, it is up to you. Spicy green papaya salad is a popular dish you can find all over Thailand and Southeast Asia for that matter. It is on the menu of every Thai restaurant.
Each country has a bit different variation. Laos, where the recipe originated uses fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste. Here is a recipe for the Laos version as well.
Did you know that Thailand used to be called Siam? Siamese cats are originally from Thailand and the name of the two conjoined twins back in the 1800's were called Siamese twins because they were from Siam.
If you would like to learn more about the bucolic country of Thailand , its traditions, food and culture be sure to check out "Our Journey to Thailand" there you will also find more authentic and ancestral recipes like this popular Thai salad.
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Thai Green Papaya Salad Recipe
- Mortar and Pestle
- Julienne Peeler
- 2 cups Green papaya threads
- 6-10 Long Bean chopped into bite size pieces
- 1/2 cup tomatoes cherry or grape cut in half
- 1/4 cup peanuts roasted chopped and unsalted
- 6-8 birds eye chili peppers or to your heat tolerance
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 Tbsp lime juice fresh
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar grated or brown sugar as a substitute
- 2 Tbsp Fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Put garlic and chili peppers in a mortar and mash wit a pestle until crushed into pieces.
- Next add long beans, lemon juice palm sugar, fish sauce, tomato, and salt.
- Mix together
- Finally add shredded papaya and mix together with a spoon and pestle until completely combined.
- Taste it for flavor and adjust as needed. It should be spicy, salty and a little sweet and sour.
- Plate the salad and sprinkle with the roasted peanuts.
- Serve with lime wedges, a little palm sugar and extra peanuts