sôm tum ~ spicy papaya salad

Sôm Tum is a classic Northeastern Thai salad that showcases the four primary tastes of Thailand: sour, sweet, hot & salty. This incredibly popular dish displays the versatility of the papaya and is enjoyed in Thai restaurants spanning the globe.

There are two common ingredient variations. The most popular version, Sôm Tum Thai, is prepared with dried shrimp and roasted peanuts. A more native version, Sôm Tum Pblooh, is made with pickled crab. This salad is commonly paired with fresh cabbage and cucumber and can literally be purchased on every street corner in Thailand.

Sôm Tum is traditionally made using a mortar and pestle, known as a “Kloke” in Thai and a spatula. A large mixing bowl is sufficient if you don’t own a “Kloke.” In place of green papaya, I’ve used granny smith apples, carrots and even eggplant. All of these substitutes are close to the texture of unripe green papaya.

Ingredients

1 clove peeled garlic
2 – 3 Thai bird chilies
½ tbsp. dried shrimp
4 cups shredded green papaya
¼ cup julienned carrot
¼ cup green beans cut into 1 inch segments
1 medium sliced tomato
Juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp. granulated or palm sugar
¼ cup tamarind juice (optional)
3 tbsp. fish sauce (“Nam Pla”)
1 medium sliced tomato
3 tbsp. dry roasted raw peanuts

Method

1. In a mortar and pestle, or large mixing bowl, crush chilies and garlic well.
2. Add dried shrimp and green beans; partially crush.
3. Add shredded green papaya and julienned carrots and toss well.
4. Add lime juice, tamarind juice, fish sauce and sugar. Pound lightly and toss to distribute flavors
5. Sample and adjust according to your tastes. In this step you are looking for a harmony between the hot, sour, salty and sweet components.
6. Add sliced tomatoes and roasted peanuts. Toss and serve.

Note: I like to serve this dish over a bed of lettuce with chilled cabbage and cucumber wedges to cut down on the spiciness. Thai Singha beer is an excellent beverage choice to accompany this dish.



Bert Dickerson is a dedicated foodie with a passion for South East Asian cuisine. He has followed his culinary dreams and traveled extensively throughout Asia learning about native foods every-bite-of-the-way.

In 2005, he attended the internationally acclaimed Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts Professional Chefs Training program. Bert can be found on Twitter@BertDickerson


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