Spicy Green Papaya Salad is native to the northeast
of Thailand, and is equally found in Laos and Vietnam.
Som Tam is a dish so evocative of Thailand, yet every
Thai will have his or her own preferred vendor or method
to make the perfect spicy salad. It is the perfect
accompaniment for barbecued chicken.
The dish itself has a whole range of variations and is usually ordered to taste. Varieties include those made with dried shrimp and peanuts, fermented paddy crab, fermented fish, shrimp paste and more. Most overseas visitors will opt for the central "Thai" variety, using dried shrimp and peanuts rather than any fermented ingredient, more sugar, and less fresh chili than used locally. Above all, and "som tum" should be crunchy, fresh, juicy and above all, spicy!
A pestle and mortar is the instrument of choice for
concocting this oh-so-Thai dish. It blends the
ingredients easily, retains the juices, does not bruise
or over-chop the ingredients...and most importantly
makes the familiar "pok pok" sound that announces a
2 cups shredded green papaya
5 halved cherry tomatoes
2 or more bird eye chilies
1 tbs dried shrimp
1 1/2 tbs fish sauce
2 cloves garlic
6 raw green beans, cut into 2 inch segments
Juice from a lime, to taste
1 tbs palm sugar
2 tbs lightly crushed, unsalted, toasted peanuts
- Pound the garlic in the mortar.
- Add the green beans, chilies and halved cherry tomatoes. Pound a few times, but do not overdo: you just want to release a little juice.
- Add the shredded papaya, dried shrimp,
peanuts, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar.
Pound a couple of times, stir together, then
adjust to taste, adding more lime juice, fish
sauce, sugar or chili to get the dish singing to
Plate, then dip in!