Som Tum (Thai Green Papaya Salad) Recipe
Thai green papaya salad, which in Thailand is known as som tam (ส้มตำ), is one of the most commonly available and popularly consumed dishes in Thailand.
Som tam (ส้มตำ) originates in the northeastern part of the Thailand (Isaan), which is on the border of Laos, where the same dish is a staple as well. You’ll now find green papaya salad everywhere throughout Thailand, and on just about every street corner in Bangkok.
In this Thai green papaya salad, you’ll learn how to make an authentic version of som tam, that’s easy to make, and tastes delicious.
Variations of Green Papaya Salad
Before we get started with the Thai green papaya salad, I want to quickly give you an overview of the different types of variety of green papaya salad available.
- Som tam Thai – This is one of the mildest versions, where the dressing is sweet and sour.
- Som tam boo pla ra – This is a very common version that uses fermented fish sauce and crab in the recipe.
- Tam ba – Literally translated to the jungle, this salad includes all sorts of things, plus freshwater snails.
- Tam sua – This version includes green papaya, fermented fish sauce, and rice noodles.
When you’re in Thailand, if you go to an Isaan restaurant or street food stall, you can choose to order whatever type of green papaya salad you prefer. But for this recipe, we’ll be making som tam Thai.
The dressing (palm sugar)
One of the main dressing ingredients for this Thai green papaya salad recipe is palm sugar which balances the sour lime juice of the dressing.
In Thailand, you can get palm sugar in every local market very easily, and in countries throughout Europe and the USA, you should be able to find palm sugar at any Asian supermarket.
Freshly roasted peanuts are another one of the necessary ingredients when making Thai green papaya salad (som tam ส้มตำ).
For the best taste, I like to get raw peanuts and roast them myself, so they have a nice fresh crunchiness to them.
However, you could always just use any kind of roasted peanuts for this recipe, just preferably roasted unsalted peanuts.
The green papaya
Finally, before we get into the main ingredients and step by step instructions for this Thai green papaya salad recipe, I just want to quickly go over the base ingredient you’ll need: green papaya.
When you think of papaya, you might think of an orange coloured fruit with little black seeds in the middle that’s extremely sweet.
But green papayas (which are literally papayas that are picked unripe, so they are hard and green), not only appear completely green, but they taste completely different. They almost have a neutral cucumber-like flavour.
Although you could substitute a different ingredient for this Thai green papaya salad recipe, it’s really worth it to go out of your way to get green papaya. It can’t be compared to anything for the texture. And again, I have seen green papayas available at Asian supermarkets throughout the US.
To prepare the green papaya, first, you want to peel off the outer dark green skin. Then either using something like a cheese grater or chop it manually with a knife (see the method in the video), you want to julienne your green papaya.
Method of preparation
Since this is a salad, you don’t need to cook it. However, you do need to pound it.
Using either a clay mortar and pestle (I used one like this in the video), or wooden mortar, first pound the garlic and chillies, mix in the seasonings and finally add the green papaya. You don’t need to pound it very hard, but it’s more of a mash and mix motion.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can mix all the ingredients in a big bowl.
Thai green papaya salad recipe
Prep time: About 30 minutes or less – no cooking is involved
Recipe size: 1 big plate
Utensils: wooden mortar and pestle (but if you don’t have this, you can always just use a nice metal or glass bowl and a spoon), cutting board, knife
Flavours: Fresh and crisp, spicy, sour and sweet
Eat with: Normally Thai sticky rice, and possibly some Thai grilled chicken or larb
Just like all of the Thai recipes, the ingredients listed (and the quantities) are a guide – it’s what I used – but make sure you use it loosely. Thai food is made to taste the way you want it to, so make sure you balance out the flavours to your specific liking.
(Source: Eating Thai Foods)