Som Tam - Thai Green Papaya Salad (Without Pounding!)

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 (22)

No pestle & mortar in your kitchen?  Not to worry!  This Som Tam recipe allows you to make this popular Thai salad easily, without any need for pounding.  I like pestle & mortars, don't get me wrong, but sometimes when I'm using one, I feel a little like a cave woman making her man's supper.  It can be fun sometimes, but other times I just find it messy and a lot of work. I know how to make it the traditional way, and how not to - and there is very little difference in the taste if any at all. For this recipe, all you need is a small chopper or food processor.  You can find green (unripe) papaya in most supermarkets, or look for them at an Asian market. Although raw green beans are part of this dish, I don't add them (find them hard to digest), so I made that optional. This salad is great on its own or served as a side to any Thai meal.  If it's the star player, in Thailand they nearly always serve it with sticky rice on the side (see link at the end of this recipe for how to make it).

What You'll Need

  • 1 small green (firm, unripe) papaya
  • 1 cup or more cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts or cashews
  • 5 green beans (optional)
  • 3 spring onions, sliced into matchstick-like pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh red chili, sliced, seeds removed (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce for vegetarians
  • 2 tablespoons light-tasting vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh basil

How to Make It

  1. First peel the green papaya, then use the largest grater you have (like what you would use to make scalloped potatoes) and grate the green fruit, rotating it as you go to avoid hitting the inner seeds.  If you don't have a grater, try the second method, which is the one they use in Thailand.  Use a large, sharp knife. First deeply score the flesh, then run your knife just under the surface to release beautiful shreds (for a visual tour on how to do this, see: how to make green papaya salad).
  1. Now get out your food chopper or processor and add the garlic, chili, fish sauce, oil, lime juice and brown sugar.  Process until the liquid turns reddish from the chili.  Slice the 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 plus all the other vegetables in a large salad bowl, holding back some of the basil for the garnish. Pour over the dressing and beans and toss.  Finally, add the nuts and toss again.
  3. Taste-test to tweak the salad to your taste.  If you'd like more intense flavor or saltiness, add a splash more fish sauce.  More chili can be added for more spice.  If too sour for your taste, 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 like they do in Thailand, with a side of sticky rice (How to Cook Sticky Rice).   Enjoy!