Papaya Salad. I order it everytime I go to a Thai restaurant. In Thai, its called Som Tam – with “som” meaning sour and “tum” referring to the pounding sound made by the large pestle. I love this dish because its refreshing. (It reminds me of Kimchi in Korean meals). In between bites, the acidity and light flavors refreshes your palate – making it a nice complement to any stir-fried dish. If you have enough of this salad, you’ll start to develop a preference for specific flavors. Some like the sauce pungent – with lots of fish sauce. While others like it spicy – with extra chili peppers. I prefer harmony – where spice, pungency and tartness blend together. Often times, the restaurants go for the bold flavors. So today, I’ll teach you how to make a balanced version at home!
If you don’t have a proper mortar and pestle, it’s ok! Simply take out a sturdy mixing bowl and any large round object. (We used a baking roller for ours – lol.) But do anticipate for some juice to splatter outside of the bowl. Or you can also toss the ingredients into a blender and give it a few blitzes.
The key flavor ingredient is the dried shrimp. Though it looks wilted and unappetizing, it’s packed with flavorful oils. As it’s pounded, the oils will mix with the other ingredients to create that base of umami flavor. Also season to your taste – we ended up adding 2-3 shakes of salt to the sauce because it tasted slightly bland. If you want it more pungent, add 1/2 Tablespoon more of the fish sauce. Or an extra squeeze of the lime.
And most importantly, be extra careful when chopping the papaya salad with the knife. Turn on some music and go slow — no need to rush it!
Enjoy neighbors – and see you in the next recipe. Daniel out! 🕺
Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
Papaya Fresh Ingredient
- 4 cups worth of Green Papaya
- 6 Green Beans (Or long beans)
- 6 Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 large Clove of Garlic (Or 2 small cloves)
- 1 Tablespoon Roasted Salted Peanuts
- 2 Bird's Eye Chili (Or 1 Serrano Chili)
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Shrimp
- 1/2 teaspoon Brown Sugar (Or White Sugar)
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
- 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce (Use 1.5 Tablespoons if you like fish sauce)
- 2-3 pinches Salt (Optional, season to taste)
- Use a mortar and pestle to grind the following ingredients: Garlic (1 Large Clove), Roasted Peanut (1 Tablespoon), Chopped Bird's Eye Chili Pepper (1-2 Chili Peppers), Dried Shrimp (1 Tablespoon) and Brown Sugar (1/2 teaspoon). Give it a good pounding so the oils seep out of each ingredient and mix with each other. (If you don't have a mortar and pestle, use a sturdy mixing bowl and a rolling pin -- or blitz everything in a blender).
- To the mix, add in Fresh Lime Juice (2 Tablespoons). Then add in the Fish Sauce (1 Tablespoon). Mix everything together. Give it a taste.
Prep Fresh Ingredients
- Use your knife to chop-up the green papaya. Then slice off small strips (reference video). You want enough papaya strips to fill 4 standard cups.
- Then bring a pot of water up to boil. Blanche the green beans for 1 minute. Rinse under cold water and cool them down. Then cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Take stems off the cherry tomatoes. Then cut each in half. We're ready to get our salad on now...
- Add cherry tomatoes to the other sauce ingredients. Use your pestle to gently mash the cherry tomatoes - just enough to release the juices.
- Then add in the green beans. Followed by 4 cups of papaya strips.
- Now mix everything together. We find it helpful to use a soupe ladle along with a pestle. Slightly mash everything together, scoop up the bottom pieces and repeat. Do this until the flavors soak into the papaya strips.
- Finish the salad with a few pinches of salt. Give it a final taste. Now if you need, add slightly more fish sauce, lime juice, or salt.
- Garnish with chopped peanuts. Plate and enjoy. Bon Appetit!