Green Papaya Salad Recipe
A trip to Thailand is never complete without sampling one of their most important dishes – the Som Tam or Thai green papaya salad. You can find street vendors selling their own versions of the popular food. Restaurants also put their own twist to the classic dish. Here is how to make papaya salad right in your home.
A Primer on Authentic Som Tam
Som tam is a staple food in the villages of northeastern Thailand, near the border with Laos. However, you will find the dish in any part of the country. There are different varieties of the green papaya salad ranging from the mild to the intense.
Som tai Thai has a sweet and sour dressing. It has a mild flavor that is ideal for those who are first-timers to this dish. The “Som tam boo pla ra” uses crab and fermented fish sauce. Those who are not keen to the strong aroma of fish sauce may want to steer clear of this version.
There is also the Tam ba. This is the most exotic of the different varieties of the dish. It includes different ingredients, some of which Western people may have never seen, tasted, nor heard before in their lives. It can also include freshwater snails. The Tam sua uses rice noodles as an extender for the dish. There is fermented fish sauce, too.
The Basics of Making Thai Green Papaya Salad
The traditional Thai green papaya salad recipe calls for three key ingredients. These are the green papaya, the palm sugar-based dressing, and roasted peanuts.
Raw papaya salad calls for the unripe version of the fruit. This may be a bit tricky to source in the United States. Your best bet will be Asian supermarkets and grocery stores. They do have these fruits available fresh.
You might think of replacing it with something else. The closest thing that can resemble this fruit is cucumber. Unfortunately, cucumber has more moisture and has a softer consistency than real papaya. The taste will also be different. It is for this reason that one should exhaust all efforts to source the fruit.
Another key ingredient is palm sugar. This balances the sourness of the lime juice. You can purchase these in blocks or compacted form. They are available at Asian stores throughout the country. It is also possible to source them from Amazon or other similar e-commerce platforms. An alternative will be to use brown sugar.
Roasted peanuts are another key ingredient of an authentic papaya salad recipe. They provide you with the crunch that has become characteristic of the dish. Most people prefer to purchase raw peanuts. They remove the shell and dry the nuts before roasting. One has to be careful when it comes to roasting these nuts. They should not have that burnt flavor that can undermine the deliciousness of the dish.
As for the tools in making a green papaya salad, a mortar and pestle is a must. Most Americans mix the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. The Thai people always make their dressing in the mortar itself. The crushing and bruising of the ingredients allow the different flavors to blend together. This imparts a richer taste to the dish.
You might also be tempted to use a blender for this. The ideal recipe calls for chunky bits of dressing ingredients. They do not need to be ground very finely.
A Simple Som Tam Thai Recipe You Can Make at Home
Here is a simple green papaya salad recipe you can try making at home. It has mild flavors and can provide you with a near-authentic Thai experience.
Ingredients for the Dressing
- 5 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
- 5 pieces of Thai chilies
- 4 to 5 pieces of Som Tam Sida tomatoes or 3 pieces of Roma tomatoes, halved
- 3 tablespoons of palm sugar or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp
- 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 4 garlic cloves
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1 and ½ to 1 and ¾ pounds of green papaya
- 1 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 15 pieces of green beans or 3 pieces of long beans or string beans
- 2 pieces of green onions, sliced thin
Directions for Making the Dressing
- Put the garlic cloves and the Thai chilies in a mortar. Pound the ingredients to release the essences of both the garlic and the chilies. Do not grind them too fine.
- Add the palm or brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. It would be best to start with half of the amount of these ingredients so you can make the necessary adjustments later on. Keep on pounding the mixture. If you are using packed palm sugar, it is important to incorporate this into the mixture. Make sure it is completely dissolved.
- Add the dried shrimp and the roasted peanuts. Also put the tomatoes. Continue pounding the mixture to help break up the peanuts, shrimp, and tomatoes. Avoid pounding too hard. You would want your dish to have that crunchy texture.
- Set this aside.
Directions for Making the Salad
- Wash the green papaya and remove the skin. You can use either a knife or a vegetable peeler for this. Shave the fruit using a box grater or a cheese grater. If you want to be as authentic as possible, you can use your knife to cut thin slices of the green fruit. Cut these thin slices into thin strips. Do not mind if the slivers are not uniform in size. It all adds to the authenticity of the dish.
- Cook the green or long beans in boiling water. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Cook the beans for 5 minutes and rinse immediately in ice cold water. Cut the beans into 2-inch long pieces.
- Put the green fruit slivers in a large bowl. Add the cooked beans, green onions, and fresh cilantro. Mix well.
- Toss the ingredients with the dressing. Sprinkle with additional crushed, roasted peanuts and serve.
Making a Thai green papaya salad is as easy as making any other salad. The only difference is the ingredients you will use as well as the manner in which you have to prepare the dish.