Green Papaya Salad- Som Tam
Thailand has a few dishes that are widely recognized throughout the world and Som Tam is definitely one of the standouts. Some of my best memories in life are of wading through the Chao Praya River in Bangkok and eating Som Tam made by toothless Thai ladies in sarongs, mashing the fresh green papaya and chilies in their mortar & pestles on rickety boats. Som Tam represents one of the best aspects of Thai cuisine- its freshness, antioxidant properties and fiber packed content. Meant to be eaten with a fiery spice, Som Tam is for true Thai cuisine aficionados.
8 cloves garlic
10 Thai chili peppers (bird’s eye chili peppers or substitute with 1 tablespoon dry red chili pepper flakes)
1/2 tablespoon shrimp paste
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 pound green papaya shredded
Juice of 3/4 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Roasted peanuts for garnish (Optional)
Raw cabbage slices for garnish (Optional)
Crispy pork rinds for garnish (Optional)
In a mortar and pestle (or food processor), mash the garlic, chili peppers, shrimp paste and 1 tablespoon of the sugar into a smooth paste.
Add in the tomato chunks and gently mash just until the tomatoes are slightly softened and mixed into the paste.
Add half of the shredded papaya along with the lime juice, fish sauce and rest of the sugar. Using the pestle, gently but firmly push down on the mixture while with your other hand, use a spoon to reach down and fold the papaya mixture over. In this manner, the papaya will eventually all be mixed evenly with the paste and tomatoes. Once the first batch of papaya has reduced, add the rest of the papaya and continue the motion taking care not to mash and break the papaya but rather using the pestle and spoon to just combine and extract the layers of flavors and ingredients. Alternatively, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can manually mix everything in a large zip lock back and crush gently with your hands.
Serve with slices of raw cabbage and crispy pork rinds on the side of the plate and sprinkle roasted peanuts on top.