This has got to be my favourite salad. It’s also probably the favourite salad of all Lao and Thai people. It may end up being your favourite salad too! Due to it’s spiciness, Som Tam (pronounced Som Tum) is a salad which can be enjoyed any time of the year while most salads are left waiting for summer to make an appearance.
I’m going to eat more of this stuff to ward of weight gain throughout winter. The garlic and chillies in the dish is bound to boost my immunity and ward off colds and flus as well! The bottom line is that this dish is just so fresh, healthy and tastes wonderful!
My Green Papaya Salad recipe – many variations
There’s no set amount of ingredients to use for Som Tam. Everyone’s taste is different so you make it to please your palate. For me, it’s got to be spice, salty and sour! My variation is quite a common one, which can be eaten as a meal in itself or as a side salad to another dish. It’s a fairly filling dish with all those dried shrimps, peanuts, green beans and cherry tomatoes. Sometimes we’ll throw in some spaghetti (the asian variety) to make it more filling.
Often, I’ll use carrots or cucumbers instead of green papaya – as I’m sure it’s not a great thing to be eating it that often. Depending on the type of papaya or at what stage of green it’s at, my stomach gets a bit upset with me while carrots and cucumbers are a little easier to digest. Give it a go with different veggies. While it’s not appealing to me, I’ve seen it done with cabbages and parsnip as well. I also love it done with sour green mangoes until I ate it on an empty stomach one day and gave myself such a stomach upset!
You’re going to need a mortar and pestle for best results. Don’t stress if you don’t own these things as you can also just mix it all together in a salad bowl with a spoon.
Shredding the papaya into nice long strips is the hardest part of making this dish. You can do it the traditional way – chopping into the papaya with a large, sharp knife multiple times before slicing thin layers off it. Unless you’ve learnt this method from a very young age (such as I did), I wouldn’t really recommend you try it. There are shredding devices which you can purchase which would make papaya, carrot or cucumber shredding a lot easier, such as the Julienne peeler (slicer). There are many different types of these slicers so choose one which suits you.
How to make Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)?
Below is just a rough idea of the quantity of the ingredients required. Feel free to add more or less of anything to suit your palate. Just remember that you can alway add more of something but it’s really hard to rectify the outcome of adding too much of something to begin with – so start with a little and add more if required!
Serves 1 hungry person as a whole meal or 2 people sharing as a side salad.
10 mins preparation time. No cooking necessary, just 5 minutes of mixing time.
Remember that this is a guide and it’s the way I like it. You can always add more of an ingredient (especially the sugar, lemon or fish sauce) but you might not be able to save the dish if you go too generously with an ingredient.
Approximately 2 cups of shredded green papaya or 2 large handfuls of shredded papaya.
Note: I used a fairly round papaya but one long in shape would be easier to handle.
1 medium clove of garlic
2 – 6 small red chillies (the hot variety).
Note: Frozen chillies are fine to use. Just be careful how many you use as some varieties of chillies can be quite hot! I don’t recommend using dried chillies.
1 Tbsp palm sugar (liquified) or 1 tsp of brown sugar.
Note: These are normally sold as little, flat discs in a packet at your local asian grocer. I would use a 1/4 of one of these discs which I’ve melted over heat with a tiny bit of water. Use a spoon to break it down while it’s over the stove. You can opt to substitute palm sugar with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar.
1/2 – 1 whole lemon juiced. I like mine sour so I’ll use the juice of a whole lemon.
Approx 10 cherry tomatoes (halved)
Approx 30 grams or a small handful of peanuts.
Note: Use roasted, unsalted peanuts preferably. You can roast raw peanuts yourself to achieve more crunchiness.
Approx 20 grams or a small handful of dried shrimps. This is found at your local asian grocer.
10 – 15 Green beans (cut into approximate inches)
2 Tbsp Fish sauce. You can add more if needed. Best to taste the dish as you go.
Place the chillies and garlic into the mortar and thump them together until they are mushy and combined. You don’t want to be biting onto a large piece of garlic or chilli.
Add a little bit of the shredded papaya while you’re thumping as it will prevent the chillies and garlic splashing away or into your eyes! Yep, it’s happened to me before and it’s not a pleasant thing to have chillies in your eyes!
Add the palm sugar and stir it through the chillies and garlic mixture.
Throw in all the other ingredients and gently thump away with the pestle, keeping in mind that you don’t want to loose the crunchiness of the dish. Fold in the ingredients with a spoon with each motion of the pestle.
For those who are mixing it in a bowl, just keep mixing with the spoon until the ingredients are well mixed. Make sure you taste a little of the mix and add a bit more of whatever it’s lacking in to make it perfect for your taste.
When the dish is to your taste, pour it out onto a plate and enjoy as a stand alone dish or eat it with some sticky (glutenous) rice and asian style meat dishes.
If this is the first time you’ve tried making this dish, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!