My Thai kick continues today, with Som Tam. Som Tam is a green papaya salad, sold mostly from street vendors in Thailand. I spent a summer abroad in Thailand, and this dish became a quick favorite of most of my fellow American students. It is light, hot and fragrant—perfect for the steamy streets of Bangkok.
It can also serve another vital purpose. Many of the women on our trip found a rice-based diet, shall we say, binding. The crunchy raw vegetables, along with the spicy chili, helped move things along a bit, making for a much more comfortable sojourn in the Land of Smiles.
This recipe is adapted from She Simmers. The discovery of this site, along with the rediscovery of a Thai cookbook (of the same type in which I found the Moroccan Lamb Meatball recipe), helped spur my recent interest in Thai.
She Simmers is a site I recommend everyone visit. The author offers insight into not only Thai cooking, but also interesting asides concerning the Thai language. She is a linguist by vocation and an avid home cook, raised in Bangkok.
- garlic clove
- 2 Thai chilies
- 1/2 inch chunk of palm sugar, or 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbs dried shrimp
- small handful peanuts
- 6 cherry or plum tomatoes, halved
- small handful of long beans, cut into 2-inch segments, or halved green beans
- handful of shredded green papaya
- tbs fish sauce
- juice of 1/2 lime
- mortar and pestle, preferably terra cotta
- large spoon
1) Pulverize. With the mortar and pestle pound the garlic, chili, and sugar into a paste.
2) Crush. Add the dried shrimp and peanuts to the mortar and crush.
3) Bruise. Add the tomatoes, beans, and papaya and bruise.
4) Finish. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and toss with the large spoon, fully incorporating the ingredients.
The fish sauce and the shrimp can be a bit overwhelming to the uninitiated. They are unfamiliar, yet potent flavors. They offer salt, and umami, however, which when used properly, can put a dish over the top. To be honest, as young students we eschewed the dried shrimp mostly, because we were punks. Acquire a taste for them, however, and you’ll never look back.
You can also find all sorts of different vegetables that different recipes suggest using. Only the papaya is essential. Try different things out. Find a combination you like.Follow @icinthedark