May 3, 2013

Som Tam (Thai Green Papaya Salad)

Want something different for your side salad? Try Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad). It's easy, tangy and the ingredients available from the supermarket.  It's light on calories and light on the pocket too!


What's In It?

1 small green (unripe) papaya (about 300 g.), peeled and sliced / prepped for grating
a small bunch of string beans (about 6 strings), cut into 1" lengths
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons dried shrimp 
5-6 Thai chilies, chopped
juice from 4 pieces of lime (about half a cup)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons fish sauce
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tablespoons roast peanuts, coarsely chopped or ground (optional)
a few stalks of coriander, chopped (optional)

Kitchen Conjugations:

Grate the papaya using a cheese grater or a mandolin. Transfer to a deep dish and set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush garlic.  Add chilies and pound slightly. Add the string beans and quartered tomatoes, pound slightly to bruise them and release some of their juice into the mixture. Add in the sugar, fish sauce, dried shrimp, lime juice, ground peanuts and coriander (if using). Pound the mixture some more to release juices. Mix using a spoon or spatula to evenly distribute the flavors. Let stand for about two minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Check and adjust taste. Pour the dressing over the grated papaya and toss. Serve as a side salad or as an appetizer. Enjoy!


1. Local names for the ingredients:  dayap (lime), wansoy (coriander) and patis (fish sauce).

2. Some people are averse to the smell of wansoy.  It is highly optional and may be used only for garnish.  (So you may add it at the last minute instead of pounding it with the other ingredients.) Wansoy looks so much like Kinchay, but smells and tastes very differently.

3. Ideally, there should be a delicate balance of the sweetness from the sugar, tartness from the lime, saltiness from the fish sauce and spice from the chili. But go ahead and up the ante for one or two of the taste you prefer.  

4. A cheese grater will give you either fine shreds or wide but flat shreds. I used an inexpensive mandolin (kitchen slicer/grater set similar to the one pictured below) I bought for a mere P100.00 in Sta. Cruz.  (I use this same tool when I make pancit and I am able to get shredded/sliced carrots, chayote and beans in jiffy.) 

(I got the kitchen slicer picture here.)

5. I was in a hurry and wasn't able to take pictures while cooking.  To see step-by-step pictures, you might want to visit ThaiTable.