Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thai Green Papaya Salad with Red Chiles, Lime Juice & Fish Sauce (Som Tum)

The first time I found out that green unripe papayas are actually edible was after watching the lovely 1993 Vietnamese-language, French-produced film The Scent of Green Papaya, in which there were several scenes of Mui (the young servant girl/protagonist) shredding green papaya for a salad preparation. Fast forward to 2016 when I first tried green papaya salad at Noodle Land here in Murrieta. The version was Lao, flavored with a little shrimp paste, which is not typically used in the Thai versions. It was deliciously refreshing although extremely spicy - I had told the waiter that I preferred a 6 out of 10 on the spice scale, but when the dish came it tasted like it was a 15 - YEEHAW!!!! 

Papaya salad seems to have originated in Laos and subsequently adapted by other Southeast Asian countries into their own regional variations. Since my sis, Elaine, was able to find green papaya in her local Asian market, she brought one over for our Labor Day weekend fest and we made this recipe, adapted from several recipes I found online and in my trove of Thai cookbooks. Even though we didn't use a mortar and pestle to grind all the dressing ingredients together (as is traditionally done), and didn't incorporate green/long beans, it was da bomb and also a great side for grilled Vietnamese meatballs s .

1 medium green papaya, peeled, seeded and shredded (about 4 cups)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered 
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. minced shallots
2 red (Fresno) chiles, seeded and cut into long strips/shreds
3 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. brown or palm sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup julienned fresh Thai basil
1 tbsp. julienned fresh mint leaves


3-4 Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut into 1" lengths (or substitute with 1 1/2 cups regular green beans, trimmed & cut into 1" lengths)

1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts


1. Combine all ingredients (except for the chopped peanuts) in a bowl and and toss well.

2. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 15-20 minutes before serving. If not using right away, it's ok to refrigerate up to overnight. 

3. To serve, plate the papaya salad and garnish with the chopped peanuts, if desired.

 Peel the papaya.

 Cut the ends off and slice in half lengthwise.

 Scrape out the seeds.

 Cut the papaya into quarters and slice into thin shreds using a mandoline.

 Combine the shredded green papaya with all remaining ingredients (except for the chopped roasted peanuts, if using).

 Toss to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

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