But the steps ARE super easy and I’m here to kick-start you into your next budding culinary career in Bangkok.
If you’ve ever been to Thailand (Kudos.), then I’m positive you’ve come across the ubiquitous Papaya Salad or Som Tam, a very common Thai dish that is enjoyed by many Thai and many a Non-Thai people all across the globe.
Or most likely you’ve tried it before at your local Thai restaurant that your cousin twice removed kept bragging about and dragged you to.
Or perhaps you’ve never even heard of it before.
And if that’s the case, climb out from under that rock my friend and come grab this food knowledge!
‘Cause Chef Benny B is gonna teach you how to become an expert in making this Tasty Thai Treat in Two minutes.
Are you ready?
What exactly is Papaya Salad?
Papaya salad is a dish that is actually traced back to Laos and the ethnic Lao region in Thailand, Isan. The dish combines the five mains tastes of the region (sour, salty, spicy, sweet and savory) and it shows up a lot in other Thai and Lao recipes, such as Pad Thai and Pad Kra Pao.
These ingredients are (you guessed it): Lime, Salt, Chili, Sugar and Fish Sauce. All of this is then mixed and pounded together with the green papaya to create Som Tam, which literally means “Pounded Papaya”.
(My Cuban friends and family can go ahead and laugh here).
There are actually many kinds of recipes to make Som Tam and many use an array of different ingredients: plums, dried shrimp, eggplant, small crabs, noodles, etc. The recipe that I’m presenting here is simple, delicious and utilizes few ingredients. And quite honestly, it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Thailand.
Let’s get down and make some Thai food.
Yes indeedy Jim.
Let’s start with the ingredient and tool list.
– 1 Small Unripe Green Papaya
– 2 Plum Tomatoes
– 2 Small Limes
– 2 Cloves of Garlic
– 3-4 Bird’s Eye Chili
– 3 Tbsp. Fermented Fish Sauce
– 1/2 Tsp. Palm Sugar
– 1/4 Tsp. Salt
Sidenote: Obviously this recipe can be altered to match your tastes and preferences. So, if you like something a bit more tart, squeeze in some extra lime juice. Salty? Add another pinch.
Or maybe you’re feeling Boss and like things extra spicy.
Toss another pepper in.
Up to you, you rebel.
Now, for the tools:
– A Knife
– A Cutting Board
– Mortar and Pestle
– Grater (Optional)
– Peeler (Optional)
– Lime Squeezer (Optional)
Ok. Let’s Begin.
“Super Boss” Som Tam Recipe
First we halve the limes and chilies and cut the plum tomatoes into quarters. Set those to the side.
We then peel the Papaya skin and with your knife in a light chopping motion make cuts into the Papaya (the picture below shows the technique). We then slice off the bits into julienne slices and set to the side. Do this repeatedly until the papaya is finished. This is the method I always see the Thai vendors use but you can also use a grater, which works great. Or greater.
With the mortar and pestle crush the garlic cloves. We then add the chilies and plum tomatoes into the mix. Cover the mortar with one hand to prevent any unwanted splashing of unruly chili juice into your eye (you’re welcome). Grind that a bit and squeeze in the juice of the two limes into the mortar along with one half of the used lime. Add the salt, sugar and fermented fish sauce and stir it all together.
The fish sauce brand that I have pictured above is called “Nai Pon” and is the #1 fish sauce here in Thailand, or so all my Thai friends keep telling me. If you can get your hands on it, nice. If not, any other decent fish sauce will do the trick.
We now add the julienned green papaya.
Stir it up all together a bit and…
A Simple, Clean, Healthy, Refreshing Papaya Salad to put some pep in your step and help you make better life decisions.
Serve on a plate and enjoy the deliciousness of Som Tam alone or with your friends.
Most likely alone, since you’re supposed to be on quarantine buddy.
Feel free to reach out to me and let me know if you enjoyed this post or if you’d like to see any of your favorite Thai or Asian recipes. I’d love to hear from you!
Also, stay safe and stay in tune for new posts about Cambodia and Angkor Wat later this week!