Thai papaya salad

Som tam

This recipe was provided by Tanja Rogers.

I’m very excited to introduce you to one of Thailand’s national dishes, som tam (ส้มตำ). This recipe is very simple, authentic, and easy. The first destination on my Gapshida tour was to visit Tanja Rogers in Canterbury, England (read my blog about the trip here). She’s been one of my readers for a long time, and she invited me to her house to share some traditional Thai recipes that she learned from her mother. For this salad she replaced papaya with swede (also known as rutabaga) because it’s not easy for her to find a firm green papaya where she lives. When made with swede, this salad tastes almost the same as if it were made with papaya. Tanja is now posting her Thai recipes on YouTube which is great!

I love the way all the ingredients are mixed with a mortar and pestle. And there are many variations on the recipe, just like kimchi.

In the 1990s, when I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I took a few cooking classes. One of the dishes that I learned was papaya salad. I loved the flavor, taste, and the way of mixing, slightly pounding the ingredients. “Koong koong koong!” The pounding sound from the kitchen will make any family excited about the dish.

This is an authentic way of preparing a spicy Thai papaya salad! “Let’s bruise thin papaya strips with garlic, chilies, palm sugar, lime, and fish sauce!” It’s a great chance for you to learn a real Thai recipe, and a spicy yet refreshing salad !

Enjoy the recipe and special thanks to Tanya Rogers!
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients for 2 servings:

  • 2 cups of shredded green papaya (or swede/rutabaga)
  • 2 tbs of toasted peanuts
  • 2 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 1-2 fresh birds eye chili (or more depending on tolerance)
  • 1 tbs of dried shrimp
  • ½ piece palm sugar
  • 7 cherry tomatoes
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 1½ tbs of fish sauce
  • 1-2 tbs Thai snake beans (or green beans) cut into 1 inch sticks


  1. Roughly crush a small handful of unsalted peanuts with mortar and pestle. Set aside. Wipe the mortar and pestle clean.
  2. Melt palm sugar in a small pan at low or medium heat, adding 2 tbs of water. The cooking process should form a shiny and thick syrup. This makes it easier to mix the sugar with the salad.
  3. Peel the papaya (or swede), shred it with a shredder (or a mandolin slicer) to thin strips and soak them in cold water while you prepare the rest of the salad. This makes the papaya crunchier and gets rid of any excess starch from the swede.


  4. Cut the green beans into one-inch pieces. Throw away the endings.
  5. Take the chilies and peeled garlic and give them a gentle bash with mortar and pestle. You still ought to see bits and pieces, not a puree. Add the shrimp and continue bashing. Add the crushed peanuts and mix well.
  6. Add the shredded papaya and continue bashing, but not too hard. Just enough so the mixture soaks up the flavours. Use a bigger spoon as a support tool, that way you can shift the salad in the mortar and it doesn’t fall out while bashing and mixing.
  7. Add the liquid palm sugar, tomatoes, beans, lime juice and fish sauce. Continue to lightly bash, shift with the spoon, and mix a little more.

    palm sugar

  8. Serve on a big dish or bowl, sprinkle some crushed peanuts on top! Voila!

In Thailand it’s usually served with sticky rice and along another dish called larb, a spicy minced meat salad with raw vegetables.

Maangchi’s variation
If you can’t find swede or green papaya, you could use turnip and cucumber. Today my friend came over to my house for lunch, so I made som tam with turnip and cucumber. It turned out very delicious.

palm sugar

This is my most recent som tam made with mango and cucumber. I’m addicted to som tam!  -Jan.5,2012-

som tam made with turnip and cucumber

My friend said she will make it when she goes home! Yay! Som tam, som tam!





Loading comments...