One day late last week I found myself staring into the fridge, wondering what to make for dinner. I spotted a bag of baby carrots and some green papaya that I had shredded earlier in the week. A little more looking around confirmed that I had all of the other ingredients needed to pound together a fresh Thai green papaya salad… with an American twist.
I say “American twist” because carrots are not traditionally used in Thai cooking. In fact, David Thompson writes in Thai food that when carrots were first introduced to Thailand, they were so foreign that they were referred to as “long orange turnips”. Nowadays, carrots are more familiar and so they are called by their English name, but they’re still not used extensively in Thai cooking.
That said, I had a great looking bag of fresh baby carrots sitting in my fridge, just waiting to be used. They seemed like they would work well in som tam — their crunchiness would mirror the crunchiness of the green papaya, their natural sweetness would add another dimension of sweet to the palm sugar-based dressing, and their vibrant orange would add a pretty pop of color to the salad.
And after pounding all of the ingredients together, the salad turned out just as I hoped it would. It was light, bright, and fresh, with the carrots simply adding to the salad without taking away any of the innate deliciousness of som tam. It’s nice to be able to incorporate non-traditional ingredients into traditional Thai dishes… and in this case, it was very nice to be able to use the carrots sitting in my fridge!
Green Papaya and Carrot Salad | Som Tam Carrot | ส้มตำแครอท
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1-2 Thai chili peppers
- 1/4 cup long beans, cut into 1" segments
- 3-4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup shredded green papaya, packed tightly
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons palm sugar
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon shredded dried shrimp
- 2 Tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
- Peel the green papaya with a vegetable peeler. Shred using a chef's knife as in the video (or with a mandoline, if you prefer). Slice the carrots into very thin 3-4" pieces.
- Shred the dried shrimp by pulsing in a blender until they form a coarse powder.
- Roast fresh peanuts in a pan over medium heat. Remove the skins and let cool.
- Mix the lime juice and palm sugar together to make a syrup.
Pound Everything Together:
- Pound the roasted peanuts until they are broken into halves or quarters. Take them out and set aside for later.
- Pound the garlic and then the chilis until completely broken down.
- Add the long beans and pound until most are broken open.
- Add the tomato halves and pound slightly, just to release the juice.
- Add the shredded papaya and pound to mix with the other ingredients.
- Add the sliced carrots and pound just enough to incorporate, but not so much that you break the carrot pieces.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of the lime juice/palm sugar syrup and 1 Tablespoon of the fish sauce and lightly pound everything together to mix.
- Add the shredded dried shrimp and mix.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings. You may want to add 1-2 more Tablespoons of the lime juice/palm sugar syrup at this point.
- Scoop onto a plate and sprinkle with the chopped roasted peanuts. Enjoy!