Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thai green papaya salad ( Som Tam)

It's summer time again! My favorite season of the year. When I was a kid, the whole idea of summer simply meant school break, watermelon, grapes, swimming, ice cream, and days and nights spent playing with my cousins in my grandpa's house in the countryside. I am so grateful to have a happy childhood, highlighted by those carefree summers in the countryside playing like there's no tomorrow.  Although there's no more school breaks, and family is far far away, I still love summer the most, for its variety of fruits, for girls' vibrant-colored dresses, and for the refreshing summer food, such as this green papaya salad.  It's been so hot in NYC recently, almost 100F. I've lost appetite to make anything hot. I tried this in a Thai restaurant in my neighborhood and fell in love immediately. Sweet balances with salty, crunchy mixed with chewy...   and I decided to recreate it by myself.

I used the recipe from and changed it a little to fit my tastebuds.


5 cherry tomatos, halved
1 red chili pepper, coarsely sliced
1 tablespoon baby dried shrimp
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded green papaya
1/2 lime, juiced
1 1/2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons toasted peanuts, coarsely crushed

Mix all the ingredients, chill in the fridge until serving.

To shred the papaya, the best tool is something like this,

I got mine from an Asian market. it makes beautiful smooth and long strips.  If you don't have one, a coarse cheese grater would do the work. The strips would be shorter and thiner. The authentic green papaya salad (Som Tam/Tum) recipe calls for a mortar and pestle to mash everything, for the best texture and flavor. I simply omitted that, and let the flavor soaked in when chilled in the fridge. It still tastes amazing.