Thai Spicy Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) is a staple dish of Thailand eaten all throughout the country, however is predominantly eaten in the North and North East provinces.
Som Tam is one of the most well-known Thai meals and popular amongst the locals due to how quickly it can be made, levels of spice depending on how many chili’s are added, how healthy it is due to being 90% vegetables and how inexpensive it is. When travelling in Thailand you’ll notice how many street hawker style restaurants there are along with mobile push carts that can whip up a quick Som Tam anywhere between 20 – 40 baht (AUD$0.63 – $1.25) which as you can see is quite cheap.
- 1 chili
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 small tomatoes
- 1 fermented crab (optional if you like it)
- 2 handful chopped/stringed green papaya
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 3 tbsp. fermented fish juice (Bla rah) (optional if you like it)
- 2 pieces lemon
- 1 tsp. sugar or palm sugar (palm sugar has a different taste, preferable)
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chili and garlic cloves together until mushed.
- Add tomato and fermented crab (optional) mixing with fish sauce, bla rah (optional), lime or lemon and sugar.
- Add papaya and mix with a large spoon, taste for happiness of flavours and adjust if necessary.
- Some people will prefer their Som Tam salty (add more fish sauce) and some will like theirs more sweet (add more palm sugar).
- Using a large spoon, serve the Som Tam on a plate and then pour the remaining juices over the top, you’ll be glad you did!
*Serve Som Tam with a side of freshly cut vegetables: Cabbage, Cucumber & Snake Beans. (these assist with reducing the spice from the chili if it’s too much)
**Rice is a necessary accompaniment to the Som Tam and would be frowned upon if not served with Som Tam in Thailand. More preferable is sticky rice (Khao Neow) which we’ll show how to make in another recipe.
My wife (Mrs Spicy) will normally whip up Som Tam for dinner a couple of times per week however the longer she’s been here, the more she starts adapting to the good old Aussie BBQ…..and a few kg’s that come with it shhhhhhhhhh. Mrs Spicy will always make my Som Tam first as she won’t put in quite so much of the fish & crab sauce and will make it much sweeter than hers; she calls mine the “dek-dek-dish” which is the same as saying she’s making a dish for kids……that normally can’t eat quite as spicy as the grown-ups. My spice is normally only about 1/2 a chili which doesn’t sound very hot but as you will come to realise, there are many different types of chili and the heat that goes with them. Mind you, this is nothing compared to the 5 or 6 full chili’s that Mrs Spicy will put in to hers, along with the fish & crab sauce which makes it much saltier and smells to high heaven.
Every time I eat this, it takes me back to the days of living in Thailand and watching the hawker style Som Tam carts being pushed around the neighbourhood with plenty of Thai’s eagerly waiting to place their order. Thinking about it now makes me home-sick and excited for our next trip back home to visit my wife’s family, friends and also mine who now live there.