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Green Papaya Salad

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)


Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) Recipe

Adapted from She Simmers


1 clove garlic
1 or 2 red Thai bird’s eye chilies
2 tablespoons dried shrimp
Thai palm sugar, to taste
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
6 oz green papaya strands
6 cherry tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
1/3 cup long green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
Fresh lime juice to taste
Fish sauce, to taste

  1. Pound the garlic and bird’s eye chilies until they form a smooth paste.
  2. Add the dried shrimp and pound until the pieces are broken up, but not completely pulverized.
  3. Add the palm sugar (cut into small pieces), maybe 2-3 teaspoons at first. More more to taste later.
  4. Add the peanuts and lightly pound until they are broken into tiny pieces, but not to the point where they form a thick paste.
  5. Add the green beans and crush them with the mortar until they’re splitting and lightly bruised.
  6. Add the papaya and tomatoes and pound on them to bruise them. You want to crush the tomatoes so they release their juices and give their flavor and color.
  7. Add a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce and a couple of teaspoons of lime juice to the mix.
  8. Have in one hand a large spoon to help flip things over in and scrape down the sides of the mortar while your other hand pounds away with the pestle.
  9. Keep pounding and flipping for a few seconds, add more fish sauce, lime juice, or palm sugar as needed.
  10. Dish out and serve immediately.

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34 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. I seldom have papaya salad, but this recipe looks so easy I’m tempted to give it a try! It looks so fresh and delicious too.
    And sorry to hear about your kitchen mishap. Hope it wasn’t anything too serious. Take it easy now…:)

  2. Hi! I saw your post on foodgawker and then checked out your site. You have wonderful work. We are a new food blogging platform – you should check us out and submit your work if you’re interested!

  3. Oh I love green papaya! This reminds me of our Filipino pickle version of green papayas which we call “atchara”. Papaya is such a versatile ingredient! Love this post and the story of your family travelling. I’ve been to Malaysia, it’s a lovely place with the warmest people! Thanks for sharing!

  4. mittens

    your recipes are always welcome and always super fun. but the 2.o is your candor. love the baby pics. and those moments when you are visiting your folks i feel like i am tagging alone. looking forward to your next posting. cheers

  5. Wally

    Sorry to hear about your accident. I hope all is well and yes never take a day alive for granted. Great looking salad by the way. All best wishes.

  6. Ainee

    I have always loved eating Som Tam.
    Thank you so much for the recipe.
    Hope you are feeling better now.
    And yes Ive bought your book. Love it.

  7. vivienne g.

    Hope you are not too seriously hurt and speedy recovery. Like your recipe and will forward it to my niece. I like to add it to spaghetti to make a nice summery appetizing dish. Sometimes when I can’t find papaya, I use long beans or even shredded carrot as substitute. Your photo makes me want to have some right now.Thanks.

  8. hungry247

    This salad was adopted from Laos where green papaya salad originated. The original Lao papaya salad is called Tam Som. From Laos, the Lao salad spread to Isan region of Thailand and then to the rest of Thailand. It also went from Laos to two other neighboring countries called Vietnam and Cambodia.

  9. Daniel

    Bee, there’s no need to feel bad. You didn’t do anything wrong and hungry247 doesn’t know history or language as well as he or she wants to think. This Lao culinary supremacy in Southeast Asia bullshit has done on for too long on many different places around the web, calling into question and attacking anyone from other countries in the region naming any dish anything but Lao. I think it’s just a group of ignorant Laos giving their compatriots a bad name.

    Just because a dish has a name in one language doesn’t mean it’s Poor Esaan people of Thailand. No matter what the hell they make and eat, they can’t have any pride in it because, guess what, every friggin’ thing is from Laos. BULLSHIT. I would not object to saying that some Esaan dishes are just as Lao as they’re Northeastern Thai, but to say that Laos is the mother of Esaan cuisine is historically idiotic.

    Sure, all papaya salads in Southeast Asia including Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian are influenced by Laos. Bullshit again. Papaya isn’t even native to Southeast Asia. It was brought over by the Portuguese through trade, so the fruit came to Southeast Asia by sea. There is evidence of it being used culinarily in the south of the peninsula BEFORE the fruit made its way up north.

    With Laos being a landlocked country, it’s clearly one of the last spot in Southeast Asia to ever get to know what a papaya is. And now some history flunkie Laos, blinded by nationalism, want to say their papaya salad has influenced the Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian papaya salads as if none of these cultures could have thought of this dish independently of Lao cuisine? I’m shaking my head at this total bullshit.

    • IsaanRiot


      You’re an idiot! What “Lao culinary supremacy in Southeast Asia” are you talking about? Who’d ever said everything in Southeast Asia originated in Laos? hungry247, may have been mistaken about what som tum is call in Laos and in Isaan (Tam Mak Hoong), but he/she is correct about “Som Tum” being adopted from the Tam Mak Hoong. Tam Som (lit: pounded sour), is not what people in Laos or Isaan call it, Papaya is not sour. He/She was just trying to give a historical perspectives on the dish, which have mistakenly been credited to Thailand – the dish is uniquely Lao. The majority of the people in Isaan, where my family is from, are ethnically Lao, their families were relocated from Vientaine, after Chao Anouvong’s failed rebellion. Tam Mak Hoong migrated from Laos and the region to Bangkok and became “Som Tum” when the Isaan people started to move into the city to find work.

      “…many different places around the web, calling into question and attacking anyone from other countries in the region naming any dish anything but Lao…blinded by nationalism…”

      That is the most ironic statement anyone could ever made about Laos. What does Pad Thai, Thai Basil, Thai Curry, Thai [insert anything]. Sound to you? Do other countries in SE Asia not have these things? You should learn about the Thaification of the Isaan region first before you speak.

      Using your grade school logic: Tomato, is not even native to Europe, yet it is what make a piece of bread, a Pizza. Why do people give credits to the Italian for it’s creation considering pretty much every country in the world, now, have their own version? This must be bullshit and damn impossible that the Italian came up with pizza because the tomato had to have gone through many other countries first before it made it landed in Italy. How is possible that no one else could have thought of this dish independently of Italian cuisine? I’m shaking my head at this total bullshit. Idiot!

  10. Farangtravels

    Daniel, I think you’ve woken up from the wrong side of the bed. Anyone who is interested in Southeast Asian cuisines can study the histories of the cuisines of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. You can read books written about the origins of Southeast Asian dishes and one famous dish is green papaya salad which actually did originate in Laos as stated in those books. Besides reading books written by experts on Southeast Asian cuisines, I’ve also traveled to Thailand and countless Thais have told me that papaya salad is adored by Thais, but it originally came from Laos (if you didn’t already know, green papaya salad is a Lao daily staple). That’s why the Thai name “som tam” is practically the same (with the exception of the word order) to the Lao name “tam som”.

    IsaanRiot, I’m surprised that you didn’t know that “tam som” is in fact the name used in Laos, but it refers to any type of salad that is made similar to green papaya salad. Tam som is a generic name or a salad category in Lao cuisine, which green papaya salad falls under. Green papaya salad in and of itself is called tam mak hoong, but it falls under the parent category called tam som.

    It’s true that papayas didn’t originate in Laos or Southeast Asia for that matter; however, the Lao invented the culinary technique of using shredded raw, green papayas to make a salad mixed with garlic and other ingredients. So the papaya fruit originated outside of Southeast Asia, but green papaya salad originated in Laos. The reason why Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia now all have green papaya salads is because they all share a border with Laos, so naturally Lao staples such as green papaya salad have spread into the cuisines of its neighbors over the years.

    I’ve noticed that on numerous occasions, several Southeast Asian nationals have become overly sensitive when it comes to the origins of their foods. It seems Europeans are more open-minded about the origins of foods unlike Southeast Asians. It is very foolish to assume that all dishes served in a Southeast Asian country must have originated within its borders. Soy sauce is used all over Asia, but researchers have already studied the history of soy sauce and have credited China with the invention of soy sauce. I hope that Southeast Asian nationals do not get upset over a common Asian ingredients such as soy sauce having origins in China. Even Hainan Chicken (chicken with rice)is popular throughout Southeast Asia, but it originally came from China, hence the name “Hainan”.

    Another popular dish in Asia is sushi, which is associated with Japan, however Japanese and foreign researchers have already published books regarding the origins of sushi and identified northern Laos as the birthplace of sushi’s origins due to the use of raw fish and sticky rice that are common staples in Lao cuisine. Japan is far away from Laos, yet has managed to incorporate Lao culinary techniques, so it should not be a surprise to you that something as simple as green papaya salad from Laos has crossed the Lao border into Laos’ immediate neighbors such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Laos is to Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia as China is to Korea and Japan.

    So Daniel, please educate yourself and stop being overly sensitive when it comes to foods. Just go out and buy books that talk about Asian cuisines and more specifically Southeast Asian cuisines. China has greatly influenced Korea and Japan, no different than how Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia have greatly influenced other Southeast Asian countries.

    Let me break it down for you based on what researchers have published starting from north to south:

    China greatly influenced Korea and Japan.
    Laos greatly influenced Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.
    Malaysia greatly influenced Thailand and Singapore.
    Indonesia greatly influenced the Philippines and its neighbors.

  11. ChrisiP

    Any help with where or what to be looking for for some of these ingredients? Specifically the chills, sugar, dried shrimp. I live in the NW.

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