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4 from 2 votes

Som Tum Thai (Green Papaya Salad)

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Thai
Servings: 2 entree-size servings (will vary based on the size of the papaya)
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. thai chili paste (store-bought or using this nam prik pao recipe)
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 3 tsp. palm sugar (substitute: 3 tsp. light brown sugar)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 red or green small bird’s eye chili
  • 3 cups shredded green papaya (about 1 large green papaya)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup green snake beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Instructions

  • In a small pan, dry roast cashews and peanuts over medium high heat, tossing frequently. Roast until nuts are nearly blackened in small spots, about 4 minutes. (Although the list of ingredients calls for roasted nuts, the extra roasting in a pan brings out a deeper roasted flavor that is fantastic in som tam. You can also start with raw cashews and peanuts, but will need to dry roast for longer.)
  • Combine the lime juice, chili paste, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk to combine evenly and set aside.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, gently pound the garlic and bird’s eye chili until both are crushed and broken into small pieces. Add papaya and carrot to the mortar and pound vigorously until liquid begins to form in the bottom of the bowl. Add snake beans and pound until snake beans break apart. Pour liquid, roasted nuts and cherry tomatoes into the bowl and stir the mixture with a spoon to combine.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within a couple hours.

Notes

The real magic of som tam happens when the papaya is pounded to release its juice. In Thailand a large mortar and pestle set is used to pound all of the ingredients together, causing them to become slightly smashed and the shredded papaya and carrot to release moisture. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can still get the same result in a variety of ways. The first is to prepare the dish in a plastic mixing bowl and smash the salad with a muddler or meat tenderizer. I also recently read a recipe (which I’ve since misplaced) in which the author recommended placing the ingredients in a sealed plastic bag and smashing them gently with a rolling pin. Either of these methods would produce the right flavor and texture.