Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

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One of my favorite Thai Salads has to be Som Tum. Ever since my brother had me over for dinner one night and made this super delicious and fiery hot salad I have been hooked. (and he was nice enough to share the perfect recipe he brought back from Thailand the summer after the big Tsunami)

I like it equally with green papaya or green mango, the latter giving it a bit more of a tart flavor. You can find green (unripe) papaya at Asian food specialty stores, the regular grocery store will only carry ripe ones, yes they also look green outside, but have turned ‘fruit’ on the inside, and we need them to be ‘vegetable’ for this. ( They look white or slightly green after they are peeled, if the papaya is pinkish or the mango yellow, it’s too ripe and soft for this and the flavor is different)

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I have adapted the original recipe a bit to adjust for our non Teflon coated tongues and intestinal tracts. The original recipe is so hot, it should have a name like Ten Thousand Chile salad or Eternal Purgatory salad. When my brother first made this we made steamed sticky rice to go along with it, to douse the fire. My version is still hot and you are most welcome to add more chillies if you like. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. I have also adjusted the preparation method (normally the salad is made in a big earthenware mortar ) and left out the dried shrimp, which are pretty hard to find and are a pretty foreign item for most folks here, although they are deliciously crispy and a bit salty, kinda like chips 😉

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Ingredients

  • 1 green papaya (or mango, see note)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cups diced string beans or snake beans (if your papaya is big, you can use 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, on the unripe side, diced
  • 3/4 cup raw, shelled peanuts
  • 2-3 Thai chilies ( the original asks for 9!!!)

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp Palm sugar
  • 8-10 tbsp fresh lime juice (from experience that’s about 5 small or 3 large limes)
  • 4 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • optional: Cilantro, sliced Kaffir Lime leaves and dried shrimp for garnish

Directions

  1. Dry roast peanuts in a skillet or alternately in the oven or toaster oven until slightly brown, set aside to cool
  2. Halve the papaya, seed and peel, then slice into a big bowl using a julienne cutter. (If you don’t have a julienne cutter, you can grate the papaya)
  3. Using mortar and pestle, crush half of the roasted peanuts, then add the chilies and garlic and mash together.
  4. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, stir until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Add sauce to mashed spices, mash all of it a bit more to mix flavors, then add to the julienned papaya and mix well
  6. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves and crush the remaining peanut and server alongside to top the salad as desired.

Note: If using a green mango, you can reduce the lime juice by 3 tablespoons since the mango has a tartness of its own.

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