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Papaya Salad – Som Tum

Papaya salad or Som Tum is a popular Thai salad for Thais and foreigners. If you have been to Thailand especially in Bangkok, you will have seen street food stalls filled with papaya salad where the traditional way of making the salad can be seen.

Som Tum, the signature of Thailand's Northeastern dish, is made using a brick mortar and pestle. The mortar, is usually taller in height and the pestle is made of wood. The salad usually consists of exotic ingredients such as fish sauce, red Thai fresh chilies or dried, garlic, julienned unripened papaya, long bean, small sized tomato and palm sugar.

Before getting started, let me introduce you the authentic and popular papaya salads made in Thai cooking.

Som Tum Thaisom tum thai, seems to be the most popular dish for many of foreigners. It consists the basic ingredients with an additional of dried shrimp and roasted peanuts. Its flavor is rather sweet and sour.

Som Tum with brine black crabssom tum poo, which is a papaya salad made with brine black crabs used instead of roasted peanut and dried shrimp. These brine black crabs are found in flooded rice fields and canals and they taste very salty.

Som Tum with fermented fishsom tum pla lah, a papaya salad dish made with fermented fish, the traditional condiment of northeastern Thai food. The fish is very salty in flavor and has a unique sent!

Som Tum with Thai noodlesom tum sua, a salad dish made with fermented fish or brine black crabs with the basic ingredients and Thai noodles or ka nom jeen.

The taste of the fermented fish or brine black crabs recipes are not normally enjoyed by westerners due the strong flavor and scent!

But don't worry you will enjoy my Som Tum Thai recipe served with sautéed prawns perfect for western taste buds!

The papaya salad is commonly served with a charcoal grilled chicken and sticky rice portion – gai yang kab khao niao.

I recommend serving the salad immediately for an optimum freshness and flavored helped by the lime juice in salad dressing!

My recommendations for other dishes that will make a good Thai set menu are Thai Grilled Chicken and Sticky Rice Click to see recipes!

Bon appetite!!

som tum

Papaya Salad
som tum

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Spicy Level: mild
Served 2

Unripe green papaya thinly shredded 2 cup
Tomato small size halved 2 wholes
Green beans 1 inch cut ½ cup
Peanuts toasted without skin ¼ cup
Dried shrimps small size 2 tbsp (optional)
Prawns medium size 150 g (optional)

Ingredients for dressing:
Fish sauce 2 tbsp
Lime juice 3 tbsp
Thai chilies smoothly pounded ½ tsp (optional)
Tamarind juice concentrated juice 1 tbsp
Palm sugar dissolved in warm water ¼ cup
Garlic skin peeled off 1 clove

Let's get started!

How to make dressing:
Step 1

  • In mortar and pestle, pound chilies, and garlic coarsely.

  • In a dressing bowl, add chilies, garlic, roasted peanuts, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar. Set aside.

How to make:
Step 1

  • Sautéed prawns for a few minutes or until nearly cooked. Set aside.

  • In brick mortar and pestle add long bean, dried shrimp and roasted peanut. Gently pound a few times.

  • Then add shredded papaya and tomato together. Mix all ingredients together.

  • Pour salad dressing in. Mix to combine with dressing well.

  • Place prawns on top of papaya salad.

  • Serve with sticky rice and Grilled Chicken.

Cooking Note

  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of tamarind paste with ½ cup of warm water in a bowl. Leave in until tamarind is softened and dissolved. Squeeze the pulp to make concentrate juice over the filter or simply spoon out the clear juice. Use only the extracted juice.

  • If you use a block of palm sugar, cut half or use a whole block. Heat the sugar with ½ cup of water over low heat. Continue until the block is entirely melted. Ready to use.

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