Like many other people, I don’t make special efforts to go outside my comfort zone for an unfamiliar food. It happens, but mostly when I am traveling.

For a long time, I only knew and liked a few dishes of Thai cuisine, and have been ordering them in restaurants over and over again. It changed two years ago, when I had a green papaya salad for the first time. It was during my vacation on Hawaii Big Island, on the farmers market in Hilo. I stopped at Ratana’s food trailer and watched her making salads. Seeing the process and being exposed to all the aromas coming from her mortar made me hungry and curious. I tasted her Som Tam and… became an addict. How this famous Thai salad had escaped my attention before? What else was I missing in Thai food? For the rest of my vacation, I’ve been ordering Som Tam everywhere to compare. Back at home, I learned what the important ingredients are and how to choose them; tried different tools to shred green papaya and different ways to mix it with other ingredients. It was a long way to the recipe shared below. Its taste and texture are adjusted to my preferences. The heat is 3 out of 10. No specific or exotic to Thai cuisine kitchen tools are needed to make it. My kitchen tools are julienne mandoline, bowl, chef’s knife, and cutting board. A small mortar is handy for making the dressing, but not necessary.

What makes the taste and the texture of this salad?

For the taste, it is easier when you know what you are trying to recreate, what you aim for. The taste is in the dressing. To make it exciting, you have to use the best fish sauce you can find. I recommend Red Boat brand. Balance the saltiness of the fish sauce with some key lime juice and brown sugar, preferably palm. Multiply umami layers by adding dry shrimp and nuts (toasted peanuts or cashews are the best here). Add some garlic pungency and adjusted to your taste Thai chili heat to make all the flavors brighter and louder. Taste it. What do you think? What needs to be added? Correct it. It should be intense and balanced at the same time.

Texture is another important characteristic of this salad. Leela writes: “It should be noted that the “Tam” in Som Tam means “to crush” or “to pound” — a verb that is most commonly used when a mortar and a pestle are involved. “Som Tam made without a mortar and a pestle,” therefore, is oxymoronic.” It should be unnerving for many Thai cooks to see green papaya salad made without mortar. But the truth is you only need pounding if papaya shreds are large. The Kuhn Rikon Julienne Mandoline makes shredding fun. It quickly juliennes papaya into tender shreds. Mix them with green beans, sliced tomatoes, and the dressing in a bowl, squeeze and stir it with your hands (use gloves if necessary), and your salad is ready.

О салате из зеленой папайи можно прочитать по-русски здесь. Тогда это были мои первые и робкие эксперименты с этим блюдом. Поэтому в тексте много размышлений о вкусе и как на него влияют разные ингредиенты. Начав с аутентичных способов его приготовления, я постепенно пришла в логичному и удобному для меня способу и рецепту салата.

Об этом салате можно рассказывать очень долго и много. Any questions?

Thai Green Papaya Salad

Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Thai
Keyword: green papaya, legume, lycooking, lyukum cooking lab, nuts, recipe, salad, spiced, tomato
Servings: 2 portions

Ingredients

main

  • 4 cups green papaya shredded
  • 6 green beans fresh, raw
  • 8 cherry tomato halved
  • 1 key lime thinly sliced

for dressing

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp dry shrimp
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar adjust to your taste
  • 1.5 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce adjust to your taste
  • 2 tbsp key lime juice adjust to your taste
  • 1 Thai red chili pepper adjust to your taste

for garnishing

  • 4 cherry tomato halved
  • 1 key lime thinly sliced
  • 2 green beans thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp peanuts crushed

Instructions

for dressing

  • Smash a garlic clove under the blade of a chef's knife by pressing the blade with the palm of your hand. Stem and deseed Thai chili, chop it.
    Making the dressing
  • Using mortar, mash garlic, chili, sugar, and dry shrimp into a paste. Incorporate peanut butter into the paste. Add fish sauce and freshly squeezed key lime juice. Mix well. Taste and correct.
    Making the dressing

main

  • Peel and half papaya. Scrape the seeds out with a spoon.
    Prepping papaya
  • Shred papaya. You need about 1 pound of papaya for 4 cups.
    Shredded green papaya
  • Half tomatoes and smash green beans. I also like slicing green beans shorter. You need these ingredients to be ready to release their juices and flavors into the salad.
    Bruising green beans with chef's knife
  • Place shredded papaya, bruised green beans, sliced tomatoes, sliced key lime, and 3/4 of dressing into a bowl.
    Making Green Papaya Salad
  • Mix, squeeze, and stir. Use gloves if your skin is sensitive to capsaicin. Let it rest for a few minutes to develop all the flavors.
    Making Green Papaya Salad
  • Portion the salad and garnish it with halved tomatoes, sliced key lime, sliced green beans, and crushed nuts. Enjoy!

Notes

Green papaya is unripe papaya. You can find it in Asian markets with the rest of the ingredients for this salad. I am adding another valuable source of asian ingredients to my list — Hana World Market (Thank you Leiko!).
Address: 1700 West Parmer Lane Ste.100, Austin, TX 78727
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Green Papaya Salad