Also known as som tam or som tum, green papaya salad is a favorite in Thailand.
Som = sour
Tum = to pound in a mortar
Let us elaborate a bit:
Green papaya is basically unripe papaya. While not overly sour, the ripening process gifts a softer texture and sweeter flavor. Unripe green papaya is crunchy and neutral in flavor, making it ideal for taking on complex flavors in this salad recipe.
The green papaya salad is prepared in a mortar and pestle and married with a savory, sweet, tangy and spicy dressing. (Really, a complex flavor profile but sure to satisfy and be craved!)
Thai Green Papaya Salad Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition per serving: 120 calories, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 13 g total carb, 3 g fiber
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
• 2 tsp garlic, sliced
• 2 to 3 Thai chiles, whole and top removed
• 1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
• 3/4 cup Chinese long beans or green beans, sliced at a diagonal
• 1 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
• 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
• 2 Tbsp lime juice
• 2 Tbsp fish sauce
• 6 cups green papaya, shredded and loosely packed
• 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• Chopped green onion for garnish (optional)
• Dried shrimp (optional)
1. Add garlic and chilies to a large mortar and pestle and gently mash until fragrant, about 2 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar until dissolved.
2. Then add Chinese long beans, carrots, and peanuts and continue to mash with the pestle, about another 1 to 2 minutes. The beans should be broken down rather than mushed.
3. Add lime juice and fish sauce and pound with the pestle to combine all ingredients well.
4. Then add the shredded green papaya and tomatoes and gently mash, mixing well to combine, about another 2 to 4 minutes. Use a spoon to help scoop ingredients from the sides and bottom of the mortar while pounding. This helps to ensure a thorough mix and even coating.
5. Top with more peanuts and green onion as desired. Enjoy as-is or with a lean protein and side of sticky rice or brown rice. (The rice soaks up all the juices from the dressing… Yum!)
Chef Tips for Green Papaya Salad
Do not have a mortar and pestle? Unsure how to ensure perfectly chopped, crisp papaya? Our chef is releasing pro tips on how to make the best green papaya salad with ease!
If lacking a mortar and pestle...
This recipe is best made in a mortar and pestle. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, use a durable, large bowl to lightly mash/bruise the ingredients with a fork or wooden spoon.
A blender or food processor will be too harsh, but the goal is to release any natural oils and flavors.
To ensure perfectly chopped, crispy papaya…
Shred the papaya, and carrots, using a mandolin, julienne peeler or a cheese grater.
To get the green papaya even more crunchy, soak the shreds in ice water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Just be sure to drain really well, using a paper towel to blot excess water as needed.
How to buy papaya...
The recipe is based on a medium-sized whole green papaya weighing 530 grams (g), or slightly over 1 pound, when unpeeled. After peeling and removing the core, the yield of shredded papaya should be about 270 g to 300 g (about 0.6 lb). Keep this 530 g in mind when shopping for green papaya at the store.
Green papaya can be rather hard to find as well. If you cannot find green papaya, you can use jicama or chayote.
For other recipe modifications…
If you prefer something less spicy, remove the seeds from the chilies before adding it to the mortar. Alternatively, use deseeded jalapeño pepper instead of the spicier Thai chilies.
If you prefer to make this totally vegan, instead of fish sauce, use soy sauce instead. Just expect the taste to be slightly different, though.