This traditional Thai salad combines shredded green papaya, tomatoes, green beans and peanuts in a delectable sweet but sour sauce. You can find Som Tum on most menus in Thailand. Thai’s usually refer to the hot peppers in this dish as bird’s eye chili, but most stores in North America label them as Thai Chili.
My first day in Bangkok was spent in sensory overload. As we walked and boated and taxi’ed and bused our way across the city, we were tasting, hearing, seeing, smelling, gosh even feeling, many of the things Bangkok has to offer.
A cacophony of car horns, trains speeding past on the tracks above, water splashing against the sides of our river taxi, hawkers at their stalls marketing their goods, but then, you turn down a small side street and the rush of sounds dissipate, your ears can relax and your heart paces a bit slower.
Glowing neon lights above the main thoroughfare of Yaowarat market in Chinatown, children in their school uniforms on their way home, historic Buddhist temples nestled in beside an ever-growing metropolis, thick green clumps of aquatic plants floating in what seems their hundreds along the Chao Phraya River.
The humidity and heat of the day giving way to the chilly blast of a fully air-conditioned 7-11, thick mystery liquid splashing onto your sandalled feet while you pick your way through a back-alley market, the rock of the river as the water taxi glides towards a giant reclining Buddha.
Som Tum – Thai green papaya salad.
My first ever Thai street food was just that, papaya salad. We had wandered the streets of Bangkok from the early morning to mid afternoon, when, deep into a 20th turn down a bunch of narrow alleyways, there appeared 4 busy sit-down stalls. No one spoke English but we saw the papaya being shredded into a large bowl and knew that’s exactly what we wanted. It was spicy as hell, and if possible, made me sweat even more than I had in the humidity of the city that morning, but it was delicious and hurtled me into the beauty & flavour of Thai food.
Thai Green Papaya Salad – Som Tum
Skill Level: Basic | Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 5-8 min | Total Time: 15-18 min
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of your knife
1 Tbsp. palm sugar (sub brown sugar)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
lime juice from 2 limes
4 Thai chillies, sliced lengthwise
½ medium green papaya, cut or shaved into matchstick pieces
½ cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, cut into large bite-size pieces
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
Combine the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and chillies in a large bowl. Let sit to meld flavours while you shred the papaya (~10min).
Add the papaya, peanuts, tomatoes and green beans to the above mixture. Serve.
Easy peasey lemon (or in this case, lime) squeezey.