Green papaya salad

March 16, 2017



Main ingredients


Fresh garlic, 4 cloves
Small size red and green chili, 4 pieces, or more if desired
Green papaya, julienne, 300 grams
String beans, cut in 1-inch length, 2 strings
Ripened plum tomatoes, quartered, 1 piece
Cherry tomatoes or other green sour specie tomatoes, quartered, 5 pcs


Fish sauce, 5 table spoons
Palm or caster sugar, 1 table spoon
Green limejuice, 2 tablespoons
Dried shrimps, 2 tablespoons (optional)

Garnishing and accompaniment

A spoon of roasted peanuts to sprinkle to finish (optional)
Iceberg or Romaine lettuce or slice of white cabbage to accompany


Method of preparation


1.   Pound the chili, garlic and palm or caster sugar together in the mortar, only to the point that the ingredients are roughly crushed but not entirely fine.

2.   Add on the cut string beans, dried shrimps, limejuice, fish sauce and tomatoes. Mix the ingredients together well and at this point, as you should get a lovely red hot and distinctively aromatic tomato sauce.

3.   Finally add in the julienne green papaya. Seasoning and flavors may be adjusted to personal taste. Serve with sprinkles of peanut and accompanied by raw cabbage, romaine or any crispy greens.


My note


This is perhaps one of the most popular national dishes no longer a Northeast specialty but revered by all regions of Thailand. There are numerous variations including the one that use roasted peanuts as part of the main ingredients and offer a slightly sweeter taste - a Somtam Thai. The recipe in this version is the so-called Somtam Isaan – a very simple, fresh, light and yet striking flavour. We sometime throw in the fresh green lime skins and it’s rinds. The salad is best served with sticky rice, noodle, grilled poultry or even a main-meal type omelet.


The most original country version would be with the fermented anchovy fish to give the salad a more intense flavour - and by doing so, the quantity of fish sauce must be reduced accordingly.


Another great variation or substitutions for green papaya are green mangoes, young cucumber or even just the fresh crispy string beans itself. The rest of the accompanying ingredients and seasoning remain similar. The only subtle difference would be that if the cucumber is used, the process of mixing the salad must be with great tenderness as to avoid the ingredient to release too much liquid and dilute the taste. At the same time, if string beans are used, the mixing needs extra strength to crush so that the flavours are blended better. The amount of sugar may be added and limejuice is reduced for sour green mango. Adjusting on salty taste from the fish sauce is a rather personal preference.    

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