This is my favorite Thai food, and every time I come across a green papaya I have to make it, or sneak it into my carry-on.
I was in Oakland this past weekend visiting my bestie, Elisa. We have been best friends since first grade, which is about 20 years now. A beautiful thing about our friendship is that we have an amazing time doing things that other people might consider mundane. While I was visiting her this trip we hung new shelves in her room, took naps, and went to the grocery store.
The grocery store in Berkley is literally my dream grocery store. I was in there for a good hour. It had an insane Asian section, along with amazing bulk produce and microbrew selection.
It was at the Berkley Bowl that I found my green papaya (I usually have to go to an Asian market about 30 mins away to find them at home), and I snuck it in my carry on for my trip back to Orange County. I have made this salad numerous times, and every time I think about when I went to visit Elisa in Thailand. We did some beautiful mundane things there too, but we also motorbiked around Koh Tao, learned to Scuba, and took a trip to the local emergency room.
There are a few ingredients in this that you might not be familiar with. You can find them all at the Asian market, or a big grocery store ( it will be cheaper at an Asian market though).
- Fish Sauce– the most popular condiment, and source of salt in Thai dishes (think Thai soy sauce). Don’t be scared of the smell or the name, it is delicious and necessary in this dish.
- Palm Sugar- comes in disks that remind me of maple candy in the consistency, but not the taste. It is used as the main sugar source in Thai cooking and not too different from brown sugar but much better.
- Green Papaya- an unripe papaya, doesn’t have any orange or yellow flesh, and the skin is all green.
- Chinese Long Green Beans- like a normal green bean, but longer and have a heartier texture and bite to them. They are usually fried in Asian cuisine, not steamed or boiled.
Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)
- 4 Tbsp fish sauce
- juice of 2 limes (about 4 Tbsp)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 oz palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t get palm)
- 1 Thai chili, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 medium green papaya, peeled and seeded, and grated
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 6 Chinese long green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- With a mortar and pestle, combine dressing ingredients, and crush together until paste mixture forms.
- In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients with dressing and mix with hands. Punch down the mixture to bruise it up, so that the salad reduces in size almost by 1/2. (Typically a big mortal and pestle is used to combine, so try to emulate that motion, and don’t be shy).
- Let sit in fridge for at least 30 minutes to let flavors do their thing, and adjust with more lime juice, fish sauce or sugar.