Thai Green Papaya Salad | Som Tum

They say Thai food has three kinds of tastes- hot, hotter and hottest; just like their weather. So, don't be fooled into thinking that a Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum) might be any different.  This raw papaya Salad while zesty and refreshing, does pack a punch with a good dose of freshly crushed garlic and Thai chilies pounded together into a zesty salad dressing of fresh lime, sugar, dried shrimp and fish sauce. 



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The shredded green papaya is then added to the dressing and given a good pounding to help it absorb the flavors. Green papaya on its own is fairly odorless and tasteless, though some might find that it sometime has a slight hint of bitterness. That's why the dressing is so important to add spicy, sweet- and-salt flavors to this crunchy fruit to counteract the slightly bitter undertone.

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Shredded green papaya


In Thai, this raw papaya salad is called Som Tum or Som Tam; som means sour and tum refers to the pounding process that is used to make this salad by banging all the ingredients together in a mortar. In Laos, this dish is called Tum Mak Hoong  meaning pounding papaya. What an appropriate name! This spicy, crunchy and super textural papaya salad is best eaten with sticky rice and chicken satay.

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Thai Green Papaya Salad or Som Tam Recipe


Yield- 2 servings

Som Tam Ingredients

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☐ 2 cups coarsely grated or julienned green papaya (approx. 1/4 papaya)
☐ 4 cloves of garlic
☐ 4 red thai chilies
☐ 1 large tomato, sliced
☐ 2 string beans cut into one inch pieces
☐ 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts
☐ 2 tablespoon fish sauce
☐ 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
☐ 2 teaspoons tamarind juice
☐ 2 tablespoon sugar
☐ 1 tablespoon dried shrimp 


Step-by-Step Instructions


  • Squeeze the limes and set the lime juice aside.
  • In a mortar, pound the lime skins well to release additional lime flavor. Discard the skins.
  • Add the garlic, chilies and sugar to the mortar and pound well until there are no large pieces remaining.

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  • Add the string beans and pound lightly to bruise.
  • Add the dried shrimp, peanuts and the seasonings (fish sauce, tamarind juice and the lime juice) to the mortar and pound lightly to break the peanuts up.
  • Add the shredded papaya to the mortar and pound well to blend the dressing into the vegetables, so that the vegetables absorb the heat and flavor of the dressing.
  • Add the tomatoes and pound lightly.
  • Serve sprinkled with a few whole peanuts. Enjoy it with sticky rice.

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Kitchen Notes and FAQs


What can I used instead of green papaya in a Thai Green Papaya (Som Tam) Salad?

- If green papaya is not available, a mix of thinly shredded cabbage and carrot is a good substitute. 
- Julienned green mango is also a good substitute that has the same texture as green papaya. In fact, food stands in Bangkok give one the option to decide whether they want their salad made with green mango or with green papaya. However, since green mango can be a bit tart, you might need to add a little more sugar to the dressing.
-Kohlrabi
-Brocolli stalks 
-Radishes

What to eat with Thai Green Papaya Salad?
Som Tum or Thai Green Papaya salad goes well with sticky rice or Thai jasmine rice and chicken skewers.

How to make Thai Green Papaya salad quickly without a mortar and pestle?
If you don't have a mortar and pestle or if you just want to avoid breaking into a sweat over all the pounding that goes into making this salad, a really quick and easy way to make the dressing for a Thai Green Papaya salad is to throw all the ingredients for the dressing into a blender; lime juice, tamarind juice, sugar, chilies, garlic, dried shrimp. Give the blender a good whir and the dressing is ready. Add the peanuts to the blender and pulse it once or twice to coarsely chop the nuts. Then mix the entire dressing into the shredded papaya, tomatoes and green beans and you're done.

Is there a vegetarian version of Som tum?
To make a vegetarian version of Thai Green Papaya salad, just omit the dried shrimp and swap out fish sauce with soy sauce. It will taste great!

How to prepare the green papaya for the salad?
Wash the papaya.
With a sharp knife, cut it into two lengthwise.
Scoop out and discard the inner seeds and membrane of the papaya.
Using a potato peeler, peel the outer green skin of the papaya.

How do you shred papaya for the salad?
Shred the papaya into julienned strips using a chef's knife or use a grater with large holes to grate the papaya.

Take a look at my other globally inspired recipes, by clicking on the 'Global' label below.



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