Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) is a light, fresh, colorful salad that embodies the flavors of Northeastern Thailand. All of the ingredients are pounded together in a mortar and pestle which helps to develop the sour, savory, and spicy flavors. Once you taste this flavorful dish, it’s easy to see why it’s so well loved!
- 2 cloves Garlic, peeled
- 1 to 3 Bird’s Eye Chilis (see note)
- 1 Tbsp crumbled Palm Sugar, more to taste (see note)
- ¼ cup Peanuts, roasted and unsalted
- 1 cup chopped Chinese Long / Yardlong Beans 2” / 5cm pieces (sub 10 to 12 regular green beans, chopped)
- 5 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
- 4 heaping cups Shredded Green Papaya (sub shredded cabbage, carrots, or green mango)
- 2 tsp Fish Sauce (I prefer Red Boat)
- 2 tsp Lime Juice
Combine garlic and chilis in a mortar and pestle. Pound until chilis are broken apart and garlic is finely ground.
Add palm sugar and pound until sugar starts to dissolve.
Add peanuts and pound until broken into small pieces.
Add beans and pound a couple times to break them apart.
Add tomatoes and green papaya together and pound, focussing on the papaya until the strands all feel tender and look slightly damp.
Add fish sauce and lime juice. Use a large spoon or spatula, alternate scooping and turning the ingredients and pounding them with the pestle so that everything gets mixed together. Be sure that you’re scooping up any of the garlic, chilis, and sugar that might be stuck to the bottom.
Taste a strand of papaya and add more fish sauce or lime juice, to taste. (If you’d like it a bit more sweet, soak the palm sugar in a tiny bit of hot water to soften it first so that it gets distributed evenly.) Give everything a final mix with the spoon / pestle.
Bird’s Eye Chilis - These are REALLY spicy. Even using one makes a pretty spicy dish. I did two when I was living in Bangkok and my spice tolerance was high, but living back in the US now, that stretches the limit of my spice tolerance. Serano chilis work as a substitute and are generally less spicy. You could even play with a bit of red pepper flakes, adding a bit at a time until you reach your limit. You’ll definitely want some amount of spice in the dish though - it’s the balance of spicy, sweet, salty, and sour that make this so great.
Palm sugar - This has a subtle, caramel flavor that makes it unique. Brown sugar would work as a substitute, but start with less than listed in the recipe and slowly increase it.
Dried Shrimp - The recipe above does not include dried shrimp, but add up to 2 Tbsp of dried shrimp for added savory / seafood flavor with the dried peanuts if you'd like. These can be found in any international / Asian market and are shelf-stable and do not have to be cooked or prepared in any way before using them in this salad.
This is a dish that’s best made in small batches. This is the most I’d recommend making at one time (and serves 2 generously or 4 as a small side), so if making it for a crowd, just repeat the steps for each batch.
For a vegetarian / vegan version, substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.
Serving: 1g | Calories: 600kcal | Carbohydrates: 130g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 605mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 35g