Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
Folks in the northeastern areas may call it som tam thai to distinguish it from the som tam in which pla ra is an ingredient. Central Thai som tam often has dried shrimps and peanuts. som tam isaan or sometimes known as som tam laaw may not need shrimps and definitely no peanuts. Isaan som tam (northern style) tastes more sour and salty while the Thai som tam more sweet. Both should be hot.The picture to the left is Som Tam at a restaurant in Thailand. This version was incredibly hot and spicy! It is made with julienne strips of green papaya, prik ki nu (fiery Thai chiles), kratieum (garlic), raw crab, prik chi fa daeng (Thail jalapeño chiles), nam pla (fish sauce), long beans, Nam Manao (lime juice), and ma kua teet (tomato).-clay
Watch this great video about making Som Tam from Enjoy Thai Food.
About 2 cups shredded green papaya
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 ½ tablespoon palm sugar, if not available can substitute it with regular sugar
3 tablespoon lime juice
½ cups tomato, wedged
1/3 cup dried shrimp
¼ cup peanuts10 green chilli
5 cloves garlic
Use motar and prestle to crush the chilli and garlic, add shrimps, continue crushing, add sugar, continue beating with the prestle, add the papaya, beat, beat, beat, add fish sauce, beat, beat, add lime juice, still beat, beat, beat, add tomato, beat, beat, beat, add peanuts, beat, beat,,… you may need to add either sugar, fish sauce, or lime. The final taste on the balance between sweet, (pepper) hot, salty, and sour. Serve with vegetables (cabbage, sting bean, napa,..) Many northern or northeastern Thais like to eat it with sticky rice.
Green papaya has a very mild, almost bland, taste, but it is the medium through which robust flavor ingredients take body and form. It picks up the hot, sour, sweet and salty flavors, giving them a unique crisp and chewy texture unlike that of any other vegetable. When made into salad, you wouldn’t know that it was mild and timid; you remember it only as bold and spicy.
Unripe papayas are readily available in various sizes and shapes during the summer at many Asian markets. Select one that is very firm with shiny green peel suggesting that it is as freshly picked as possible. Any very firm unripe green papaya can be used for the recipe, ranging from the small Hawaiian papaya to the huge Mexican variety. The important thing is that it should be unripe – the flesh still light green, almost white, in color after it is peeled. Select the firmest one you can find. Even green fruits will eventually ripen and turn soft if allowed to sit around for some time.
There are many ways to make green papaya salads, with varying degrees of hotness, sourness and sweetness. The hottest salads are probably made in northeastern Thailand and Laos where they are eaten with barbecued chicken and sticky rice as a staple food of the populace. There, the salads are made by bruising julienned green papaya with garlic and very hot bird peppers in a large clay mortar with a wooden pestle, then seasoning with lime juice, fish sauce and other flavorings.