Raw papaya salad, or Som Tam


This salad is a best of Isan food where it belongs to the daily diet. It is traditionally prepared in a large mortar and served with sticky rice. Som Tam means literally "Sour Pound": it's a sour salad, pound in a mortar!

Quantities are given for 1 mortar (1 person as a main course or 2 people as a starter)


1 garlic clove

25 g unsalted peanuts, dry roasted

125 g green papaya & 50 g carrot, finely shredded

1 snake bean (30 g) , cut into 3 cm lengths

½ tablespoon dry shrimps

1 fresh birds’eye red chili (for a medium spic salad)

½ tablespoon coconut sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

4 cherry tomatoes, halved


Use a wooden pestle and a clay mortar to pound the garlic and chilli pepper. Add the beans and pound coarsely. Add the papaya and carrot, then continue to pound gently, using the wooden pestle and a spoon, scraping the sides, turning and mixing well. The aim is not to crush the ingredients but to soften them.


Add the dry shrimp, seasoning (sugar, fish sauce and lemon juice) and tomatoes and pound lightly for another minute. As the juice comes out, pound more gently to prevent the liquid from splashing. Taste and adjust the seasoning (sweet-sour and salted).


Transfer the papaya salad and its juice to a serving dish. Garnish with peanuts.


Variation: if you don't have papaya, you can replace it with cabbage, cucumber or green apple.

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