Som Tam was probably the first dish I fell in love with when I visited Thailand for the first time in 2000. Since then I’ve returned a number of times and eaten a large variety of Som Tam versions both in south east Asia and back home. That’s one of the really beautiful things with this salad - as long as you keep the balance between the heat, the acid, the sweet and the crunch and freshness from the papaya - you can make all kinds of variations on the theme.
In the video below, my first live broadcast over Internet, I show you how I make the salad and also briefly tell you how you can make variations or exchange different things if you can’t find them in your local supermarket and Asian store.
- Shred the peeled papaya and carrots with a zester or grater. Avoid to shred in to the inner part of the papaya since there are hundreds of small seeds. The papaya to carrot ratio should be approx 3:1, I think.
- Mash the chili and garlic into a thick paste in a mortar. For a hotter salad - add more chili, if you want it milder - add less. Simple, right? I like mine prettyhot and usually use one birde-eye chili, but if I serve the salad with rice (preferably sticky rice) I add another half chili.
- Add the palm sugar to the mortar and start working with the pestle until it has dissolved completely. If it won’t dissolve, add some lime juice and that’ll do the trick.
- Put in the roasted peanuts and half of the halved cherry tomatoes.
- Chop the string beans into 3 cm long pieces and put in the mortar. Give everything a good bashing.
- Add the dried shrimp (you can find them in most Asian stores) and the shredded papaya/carrots and the rest of the cherry tomatoes.
- Add the fish sauce and the juice from one large lime or two small. Using the pestle and a spoon, make sure everything is mixed well. You don’t want to end up with all the juicy flavors in the bottom of the mortar. Right?
- If you need - adjust saltiness with fish sauce, acid with lime juice and the sweetness with palm sugar.
- Plate and serve as is or with sticky rice.
- Go buy more papaya, because I’m sure you want to do this again pretty soon.