Green Papaya Salad – A Northern Thai Specialty


Thai food is some of the most popular in countries like England, Australia, and the United States. We all know the old standbys, Pad Thai, Red Curry, Pad See Yew, but have you ever eaten the spicy Thai dish made with shredded green papaya and a sweet spicy dressing? On Western/English menus it is often called simply Papaya Salad, but it hails from the Issan region in North Eastern Thailand, where it goes by its original Thai name of Som Tam.

Som Tam is a wonderful accompaniment to cold sliced meat, fried chicken, or just on its own. Thais serve it with sticky rice, and cucumbers, beans and fresh cabbage to help with the heat from the chilies. It is a classic Thai dish, and simple to make too because, as you can imagine, green papayas are readily available in that country. It’s possible to find green papayas in the west, or non-tropical countries, but it pays to ask your green grocer a few days before you know you’ll need one, as they can be hard to come by.

Next time you see Papaya Salad on a menu, why not give it a go? Or better yet, try it out for yourself at home and wow all your mates.

Green Papaya salad with snake beans and tomato
Prep: 35mins
Serves: 6

1 small green papaya peeled and shredded
150g snake beans
250 cherry tomatoes
2 large handfuls of mixed Asian herbs
½ cup lime and chili dressing (see below)
4 fried Asian shallots
1/3 cup roasted peanuts

Place the prepared papaya in a large bowl. Cut the snake beans into 1.5” lengths, then blanch them in boiling salted water for 2 mins. Refresh in iced water, drain and allow to dry.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and slice the herbs. Put the snake beans, tomatoes and herbs in the bowl with the papaya. Add the dressing and mix quite vigorously, squeezing the ingredients as you toss the salad. Place the salad in a bowl and garnish with the fried shallots, and peanuts.

Lime and chili dressing
1 garlic clove
1 bird’s eye chili
50g palm sugar
2 ½ tbsp. light soy
5 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. chili oil
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. chopped coriander

Pound the garlic and chili into a fine paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the palm sugar and continue to pound the ingredients. Add the soy sauce and stir well until the sugar dissolves, then add the remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine.