Green Papaya Salad
Green Papaya Salad, or Som Tam (sometimes written Som Tum), is a very common dish eaten throughout Thailand. It originates in Laos/Issan, but now the whole country enjoys it. This version does not add fermented crab or fermented fish paste (plaa-raa) which is common in Issan. Feel free to add that if you want! This dish is easily made vegetarian by omitting the dried shrimp, and substituting salt for the fish sauce.
- First prepare the papaya by peeling the dark green skin. Then, hold the papaya in your hand, and smack the fruit lengthwise with a good sized knife. You want to create 1/2″ or so deep cuts into the fruit. Do this over and over until you’ve created a good amount of cuts. Watch your fingers! Then, cut the papaya lengthwise to produce long strips. You can also buy tools which can create long shreds, or even use a cheese grater (the big holes). Thai people use the knife method though!
- In a ceramic mortar & pestle, add the whole garlic cloves and chilies. Pound with the pestle a few times to mash, then add the long beans.
- Pound a few more times, and add a pinch of papaya. This helps mix the garlic & chilies. Pound some more.
- Add the palm sugar, fish sauce or salt and pound more. Make sure everything is well mixed.
- Add the tomato, chopped into large pieces. Pound more, but not as hard. Add the lime juice, dried shrimp and the rest of the papaya. Pound about 10-15 times while mixing with a spoon. You want to evenly coat the papaya with the juices while pounding the flavor into the papaya, but don’t pound so hard that the papaya disintegrates. Add the peanuts, mix and serve.
Don't pound the papaya too hard. You want to gently bruise the fruit, not smash it into bits or make it soggy. The papaya should be crunchy. You need to use a special ceramic mortar & pestle for making this dish. Using the stone variety will over-pound your papaya.