Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

As the anniversary of this blog approaches each year, I like to take a little time to look back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the previous year.

Last year, I did this by revisiting three popular Thai dishes here in America.  I started with chicken satay with peanut sauce, which was the very first Thai dish I ever tried to make.  Then I posted a recipe for tom kha gai (coconut milk soup) with slight variations from the original recipe that I discovered I liked even better over the course of a year.  And finally, I ended with a re-make of pad Thai including my “Top 5 truths about Thai food”.

As much fun as this was last year, this year I thought I’d shake it up even more….

Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

Some of you may know that the boyfriend’s parents were visiting recently.  In addition to eating lots of delicious Thai food, I had the opportunity to see how they made this food.  And one night, as the boyfriend’s mom was pounding shredded green papaya into the most delicious som tam I’ve ever eaten, I realized how much seeing something in action helps.  I know, pretty obvious, right?  In fact, many of you have already suggested incorporating videos on this site for specifically that reason.  But sometimes it just takes that personal “ah-ha” moment to make things click.

So, after coming to this realization, I thought this year’s anniversary celebration would be the perfect time to make some videos!

And what better video to start with than som tam?  Because although I’ve made som tam many times before, it wasn’t until I saw it in action, that I realized all the ins and outs of how a good som tam should be made.  You see, I’ve always had the right ingredients and even the right proportions, but the subtle details were missing.  The first time I tried to make it (we’ll call it year 0), I didn’t pound the ingredients nearly enough (as evidenced by the whole Thai chili sitting on top of the salad).  My attempts over the next year (year 1) were better, but there was still not enough pounding going on and certainly not enough roasting of the peanuts.

Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

This year’s attempts (year 2), after watching the boyfriend’s mom make it, have been absolutely delicious.  There has been much more pounding of ingredients and roasting of peanuts.  His mom also introduced me to the idea of shredding the dried shrimp, which I love (rather than biting into whole dried shrimp, which I didn’t love).  Making a syrup of lime juice and palm sugar before starting to pound the ingredients also helps to get the taste just right, rather than trying to pound palm sugar directly in the mortar and pestle.

All this said, she also emphasized that there is no one “right way” to make som tam and that it should really be driven by taste.  This is, of course, what I’ve been trying to do all along.  But I guess sometimes you just need to watch how it’s supposed to be done before you can perfect that taste for yourself.

So without further ado, the video and recipe below are the culmination of 2 years of trial and error, one night of close observation, and several subsequent attempts at taste perfection.  It’s my interpretation of how a good som tam should be made.  I hope you like it!

 

Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

Makes 1 serving

Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam | ส้มตำ

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons palm sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon shredded dried shrimp
  • 2 Tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts

Instructions

    Prepare Ingredients:
  1. 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).
  2. Shred the dried shrimp by pulsing in a blender until they form a coarse powder.
  3. Roast fresh peanuts in a pan over medium heat. Remove the skins and let cool.
  4. Mix the lime juice and palm sugar together to make a syrup.
  5. Pound Everything Together:
  6. Pound the roasted peanuts until they are broken into halves or quarters. Take them out and set aside for later.
  7. Pound the garlic and then the chilis until completely broken down.
  8. Add the long beans and pound until most are broken open.
  9. Add the tomato halves and pound slightly, just to release the juice.
  10. Add the shredded papaya and pound to mix with the other ingredients.
  11. Add 2 Tablespoons of the lime juice/palm sugar syrup and 1 Tablespoon of the fish sauce and pound everything together to mix.
  12. Add the shredded dried shrimp and mix.
  13. Taste and adjust the seasonings. You may want to add 1-2 more Tablespoons of the lime juice/palm sugar syrup at this point.
  14. Scoop onto a plate and sprinkle with the chopped roasted peanuts. Enjoy!

 

 

More Thai Recipes:

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Snacking on Tropical Fruits

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Cowen Park Kitchen October 24, 2012, 7:00 pm

    Thanks for posting this. It’s probably my favorite Thai dish, and it’s done so poorly in US restaurants more often than not!

    Reply
  • Mary October 27, 2012, 11:48 am

    I love the dishes you make and really loved the video. Thanks for sharing ~

    Reply
    • Rachel October 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

      Thanks guys! That means a lot.

  • Sunny November 16, 2012, 3:22 am

    The food looks delicious AND this is a beautifully made video!

    Reply
  • MissGoldie June 29, 2013, 9:20 pm

    Love your recipes! Aesthetic presentation, beautiful pictures and easy to follow directions! I hope you post more videos soon! One of my all time favorite dishes in Thaland was a fried whole fish with a sweet chili sauce, do you have a recipe for this? Keep up the great work! A labor of love and it shows:)

    Reply
    • Rachel June 29, 2013, 10:37 pm

      Thanks so much, MissGoldie! I don’t have that recipe up yet, but it’s definitely on the list!

  • Adrian Fleur September 11, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Oh yes! One of the best dishes in the entire world =) Lovely post.

    Reply
  • Allyson July 9, 2014, 7:07 pm

    Rachel, as this is one of my favorite dishes…all I can say is yummmmm! I love the idea of combining the palm sugar with the lime juice. I will try that on my next go round. My Thai friend would make this for me with sticky rice, and her version of Thai jerky, the trio eaten together is my all time favorite. I was wondering if you had a recipe for Thai beef jerky?

    Reply
    • Rachel July 9, 2014, 9:08 pm

      Allyson, I don’t have a recipe for beef jerky yet, but I agree that it’s a fantastic combo! :)

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