Som Tam, spicy green papaya salad, is one of the most well known dishes in Thai cuisine. A specialty of Northeastern Thailand but served all over the Kingdom and even South East Asia, it combines all the principles of Thai flavours: salty, sweet, sour and salty. It comes in many variations including a fried pancake version (Som Tum Tod) but the most common raw versions include ingredients like peanuts and/or crab.

The crab versions are a little too salty for my palate so I stick to this one which I make at home. I’ve based it on what is served at our local night market (addition of Thai eggplant for example), and my own tastes.

Som Tam salad is refreshing and flavourful and a perfect side dish for BBQ’s and summer dinner parties. Enjoy this gem and let me know if you recreate it at home.

JC x

N.B – For maximum flavour and results, this salad requires a mortar and pestle . Dried shrimp is traditionally used in this recipe, as well as long/snake beans but I omit them in my version.

Som Tam Salad 

Serves 3 – 4


3 cups shredded  green papaya

5 cherry tomatoes cut into halves

2 tbs roasted peanuts

1/2 tbs brown/palm sugar

1 1/2 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs lime juice

1 carrot, shredded

1 baby Thai eggplant, halved and cut longways into thin crescents

5 cloves garlic, peeled (unpeeled is fine too and quite commonly served this way in Thailand)

3-5 small chillies



Start by pounding the chillies and garlic together in the mortar

Add sugar, fish sauce and lime juice – pound until well mixed

Now add peanuts and eggplant and proceed to pound until well mixed

Add the shredded papaya and carrot and continue to pound

Add the tomatoes and pound until well mixed

Taste the salad and add any additional ingredients to your liking (usually extra garlic, chilli or fish sauce)

Transfer to a serving plate, top with some peanuts and enjoy!

Notes: It is important to bruise the ingredients to release their flavour. Take care to not pound the ingredients until crushed. Vermicelli noodles are quite a common addition to this dish, they balance all the flavours beautifully and make it more filling too.




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