Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

Papaya Salad

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.


Thai Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
Cuisine: Thai
Author: Mrs Spicy
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
Thai Spicy Papaya Salad
  • 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)
  1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chili and garlic cloves together until mushed.
  2. Add tomato and fermented crab (optional) mixing with fish sauce, bla rah (optional), lime or lemon and sugar.
  3. Add papaya and mix with a large spoon, taste for happiness of flavours and adjust if necessary.
  4. Some people will prefer their Som Tam salty (add more fish sauce) and some will like theirs more sweet (add more palm sugar).
  5. 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.



  1. Chocolate Bar says

    As the posters above said this looks amazing! I’ve been getting into Thai food latley, Pad Thai being my favourite meal. I just haven’t adapted to spciey food yet which is killing me! I can’t wait to make this, I’m going to have to make it very mild though.


    • Trent Carpenter says

      It’s great, so refreshing and healthy too. I can’t eat it very spicy myself… we make my version first and then my wife’s after when she adds a good 5-7 chillis to hers. ON FIRE!

  2. Tammi@insatiablemunchies says

    OOOHH!! My mouth is watering just looking at that recipe. LOVE SOM TUM!! My problem is that the papaya is always slightly too ripe, even though they look green and hard on the outside. Must try again soon!
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    • Trent Carpenter says

      It’s one of my favourites too Tammi and especially as I’m trying to eat more of the vegetable Thai dishes as opposed to the coconut curry’s due to my ever-increasing waistline. :)

      I can’t pick a Papaya to save my life, so that’s where I’m fortunate with my wife growing up in The Land of Papaya! I really do need to learn how to pick some of the fruits & vegetables by their smells & touch.

  3. Coffee and Crumpets says

    I have been wanting to make this salad like forever! I do t know why I haven’t yet, no excuses, I have a great Asian market next to me and I can get everything I need. I am going to have a Thai inspired dinner this week, maybe it’s time.
    This looks wonderful.

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    • Trent says

      Hi Nazneen,

      I think you’ll love the spice from the chili, especially after seeing some of your recipes on your blog.

      It looks like you enjoy a bit of heat in your cooking, something I’m trying to increase in mine. My chili level is 1/2 a chili where my wife eats 5 or 6 in here Papaya Salad.

      I look forward to hearing how your Thai inspired dinner goes this week, please do share back.

  4. GourmetGetaways says

    I love papaya salad but I have never had a great recipe… I will have to try this one out, I am guessing it will be awesome!! I usually grow snake beans so I will have to plant some in readiness :)
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    • Trent says

      Hi Julie, You’ll love it, the juices bring the flavours all together. Let me know how you go :)

      Halloween Brownies? They sound fantastic, I’ll check out your recipe too.

    • Trent says

      It’s a regular for us in our house Lorraine. As long as we can get the matching snake beans too, all the flavours come together.

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