Som Tam Recipe: An Easy Thai Green Papaya Salad

Real Thai Green Papaya Salad!
Real Thai Green Papaya Salad!. D.Schmidt for About.com
  • 25 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Ratings (23)

Som tam is a popular Thai salad featuring green papaya and a spicy chili pepper dressing. Traditionally, it's pounded with a mortar and pestle, which can be fun at times. However, it's also messy and a lot of work.

To make this tasty salad much easier to toss together, simply turn to your handy food processor or chopper. This recipe was adapted for that modern convenience and there is very little difference in the taste.

You can find green (unripe) papaya in most supermarkets and Asian markets. Although raw green beans are part of this dish, some people find them hard to digest. Feel free to skip those if you like.

What You'll Need

  • 1 small papaya (green, unripe, firm)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 red chili pepper (sliced, seeds removed; to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce for vegetarians)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (light-tasting; not olive oil)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 5 green beans
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 3 spring onions (sliced into matchstick-like pieces)
  • 1/4 cup basil (fresh)
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (or cashews; roasted)

How to Make It

  1. Peel the green papaya. Using the largest grater you have (such as one for scalloped potatoes), grate the green fruit, rotating it as you go to avoid hitting the inner seeds. If you don't have a grater, try a method used in Thailand using a large, sharp knife. Deeply score the flesh, then run your knife just under the surface to release beautiful shreds.
  2. In a food chopper or processor, add the garlic, chili pepper, fish sauce, oil, lime juice, and brown sugar. Process until the liquid turns reddish from the chili. Set this salad dressing aside. 
  1. Slice the green beans into segments and add them to the chopper or processor. Pulse to lightly chop and bruise the beans. In Thailand, the beans are pounded to bruise them, but this method works just as well.
  2. Place the shredded papaya and the vegetables in a large salad bowl, holding back some of the basil for a garnish. Add the chili dressing and beans and toss. Add the nuts and toss again.
  3. Test for taste and adjust the salad's flavor as desired. If you'd like a more intense flavor or extra saltiness, add an extra splash of fish or soy sauce. More chili can be added to make it spicier. If it's too sour, sprinkle a little white sugar over your salad and toss to mix (the sugar will melt in a minute or two). 

Serve your salad as is or as a side dish to any Thai entree. If this is your main course, try serving it with a side of sticky rice like they do in Thailand.