Thai Papaya Salad – Som Tum

Thai 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.

This 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 styles of this salad.

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

Som Tum with brine black crabssom tum poo, is made with brine black crabs 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, is made with fermented fish (pla lah), 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, is a salad dish with fermented fish or brine black crabs with the basic ingredients and Thai noodles known as "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, a perfect recipe for western taste buds!

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

The exotic Thai papaya salad is usually served with Thai BBQ Chicken and sticky rice - a perfect match for lunch or dinner!

Bon appetite!!

papaya salad

Thai 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)
Uncooked medium sized prawns removed shell and deveined, leave tail intact 150 g (optional)

Ingredients for dressing:
Fish sauce 2 tbsp
Lime juice 2 tbsp
Thai chilies smoothly pounded ½ tsp (optional)
Tamarind juice 1 tbsp
Palm sugar 1 ½ tbsp

Let's get started!

How to make:
Step 1

  • In brick mortar and pestle, pound chilies coarsely.

  • In a dressing bowl, add pounded chilies, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and tamarind juice. Stir and set aside.

Step 2

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

  • In brick mortar and pestle, add long bean, dried shrimp and roasted peanut. Gently pound a few times. You can alternatively use a stainless steel mixing bowl if you don't have mortar and pestle.

  • Then add shredded papaya and tomato. Mix all ingredients together with dressing and toss well.

  • Transfer to a serving plate. Place prawns on top of Thai papaya salad and sprinkle roasted peanuts.

  • Serve with sticky rice and Thai BBQ 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.

  • Grated palm sugar is much easier to use. It is available in a pack in most of major Asian stores. If not, you can simply grate a block of palm sugar. Another way to prepare hard palm sugar is to make a syrup by simmering a hard block of palm sugar in boiling water. A syrup of palm sugar can be refrigerated for a long time.

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