Green papaya salad is native to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. It is a very popular salad and even listed in the World’s 50 Best Foods in CNN Travel’s Culinary Journeys. Walking down the streets of Thailand one can see the street vendors, any time of the day pounding away making this amazingly delicious salad. Along with its excellent taste, it is an incredibly healthy salad, full of phytonutrients and fiber, embracing the various colors of the vegetables and providing exceptional and potent digestive capabilities of raw papaya.
- Soak tamarind in water, and then squeeze out the pulp and keep aside
- Shredded full-length raw papaya strands
- Shredded carrot strands
- Roast raw peanuts
- 1 cup string grated raw papaya
- ½ cup string grated carrot
- 4 strings of long beans
- 1 big tomato cut into 6 pieces or few cherry tomatoes cut into half
- A handful of roasted peanuts
- 2 small green fresh chilies
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 -2 tsp palm sugar
- ½ cup tamarind pulp
- ½ lemon’s juice freshly squeezed. Can be avoided if you do not fancy a too sour taste
- In a clay or wood mortar, crush lightly with a pestle the fresh chilis
- Break the beans into two-inch pieces and throw them into the mortar. Add in the roasted peanuts and pound them together
- Add the tomatoes, pounding slightly to just crush them
- Pour in the tamarind pulp, soy sauce, palm sugar, and the lemon juice
- Lightly pound, mixing well all the ingredients together
- Add the raw stringed papaya, pound lightly while swirling around with a spoon in the other hand
- Add the stringed carrot pound further while swirling with the other hand
- Serve with any dish like a salad or it can be eaten on its own as a complete dish. Salad and cabbage leaves are often eaten along with it.
I have eaten Somtam at many places and instantly it becomes evident when the traditional authenticity is absolutely missing! First of all the taste has to have all these flavors present i.e sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. It must be crunchy and refreshing. Finally, you have got it right when all keep saying its really too spicy, with eyes watering, nose dripping yet they keep asking for more and more! Here are my tips to get it as close as possible to the authentic Somtam. I am sure you will master and enjoy it as a genuine native salad!
- Avoid using a box grater to grate the raw papaya. Traditionally uneven strings are chopped and sliced out with a knife. Papaya is held in one hand and the knife in the other hand. If you are afraid of cutting your hand then you may use a zig-zag peeler. Peel along the entire length of the raw papaya. Use the peeler for the carrots too
- Use hardwood or clay mortar and a pestle for making this salad
- Break the beans instead of chopping them with a knife
- You can make the dressing paste in the mortar right at the beginning also. (Maybe some would use a blender, but I never did that)
- All four flavors must be tasted very distinctly, i.e. sweet, sour, spicy, and salty and the salad must be crunchy and refreshing!