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Authentic Lao Style Green Papaya Salad Recipe (Delicious & Flavorful)

If you have ever had a taste of Lao style green papaya salad, you are in luck because I am sharing with you this delicious recipe. It is full of flavor and is absolutely delightful.

Lao green papaya salad is known as tum ma hoong. Translated, tum means to crush and ma hoong refers to the green papaya. It is a light and refreshing salad that has amazing layers of of spicy, sour, sweet, salty and umami flavors combined into one delightful bite. 

This salad is generally eaten as a side dish to a Lao dinner spread and often eaten with sticky rice known as khao niew, small green egg plants, cabbage, long green beans, and pork rinds/crackle. 

lao papaya salad recipe

Popularity of Lao Style Green Papaya Salad

Green papaya salad has always been a popular dish in Southeast Asia. However, its popularity increased tremendously after Thailand adapted the dish. The Bangkok version substituted some of the stronger flavors of fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste with regular fish sauce for a more subtle tone.

For those that have adapted the acquired taste for padaek and nam pu, the Lao style papaya salad is definitely the more flavorful variation. There are some other main differences between Thai papaya salad and Lao papaya salad, which namely is the inclusion or omission of the fermented fish sauce.

lao papaya salad recipe

Laos Tham Mak Hoong

This dish is known by a lot of different names, especially when you include the multitude of ways that it gets translated into English. In general, the various names mention characteristics of the dish or how the dish is made: sour, pounded, papaya salad.

Other names this dish goes by include:

  • Tum Sum
  • Tum Ma Hoong
  • Tham Mak Huong
  • Som Tum
  • Sum Tuom
  • Tham Mak Hoong

Here are the words roughly translated:

  • Tum means pound
  • Ma Hoong (and the other ways it’s spelled) means papaya
  • Som means sour

Fun Facts About Green Papaya Salad

Can green papaya salad induce labor?

One fun myth about green papaya salad is that it can induce labor! This a wive’s tale that is shared due to the spicy characteristic of Lao papaya salad.

Is papaya salad safe during pregnancy?

Papaya salad is safe for pregnancy if you eat the Thai version which does not include padaek, but rather fish sauce as the dressing. Lao style papaya salad includes fermented fish sauce, which I would not recommend during pregnancy due to the nature of how it is prepared (fish that sits in a brine and ferments for long periods of time).

What kind of papaya do you use for papaya salad?

In general, papaya is seen as a tender orange tropical fruit. The green papaya that is used in this salad recipe are immature papayas that have not began the ripening process. When these papayas are green, they have a beautiful white flesh that is often tinged green and provides a neutral, yet crunchy flavor that makes them perfect for any type of salad.

Adapting and Adjusting Lao Papaya Salad Recipe

Making papaya salad requires several main ingredients, but overall, you can adjust the ingredients as you please. Essentially, you can adapt the flavors and intensity to suit your own taste buds. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar. If you want it more spicy, add a few more Thai chiles. If you want a deeper and richer taste, add more padaek. 

There are other variations that include adding shredded carrots that provide a beautiful presentation contrast and sweetened flavor to the dish. You can also add radish, long beans, and eggplants into the dish itself when they are usually just are placed as accompaniments.

Vegetarian and Vegan Adaptation for Papaya Sald

For a vegetarian spicy green papaya salad, substitute the fish sauce with soy sauce. 

The beauty about papaya salad is that it is so easy to make your own and adjust. 

Shopping List for Tham Mak Hoong Your Asian Supermarket Stop

  • Green Papaya – These are definitely a seasonal item, so you may have a tough time buying it if you are shopping out of season. During the season of papayas, you’ll often pre-shredded green papaya to help you save time making it. However, I find that papaya salad has a fresher taste when you’ve peeled it on your own. When choosing the papaya in store, make sure it is firm and green. Look for one that has a vibrant green skin that does not indent when you press it with your fingers. If the papaya has turned pale green or has yellow on the skin, it has already started the ripening process and is not the best choice for this recipe.
  • Pork Crackle Rinds/Chicharron – This is similar to pork rinds, but they have more fat on them and are a bit crispier.
  • Thai Birds Eye Chiles – These are normally in bags near the refrigerated herbs
  • Fermented Fish Sauce – This is found next to the soy sauce. Read my post for recommendations on padaek brands. In short, it is a fish condiment that has been cured. The consistency is thicker than fish sauce and often contains pieces of fish. The smell is very strong and pungent. 
  • Crab and Shrimp Paste (Nam Pu) – These will be found right next to the fish sauce and soy sauce. Crab and shrimp paste is also used to increase the saltiness flavor.
  • Thai/Kermit Egg Plants – These little miniature egg plants can be found near the vegetables and herbs.
  • Long Green Beans (also known as snake beans) – These can be found in the vegetable aisle. This is an amazing accompaniment because it gives the dish that extra crunch!
  • Pure Palm Sugar – Get the bottle that looks like this:

lao papaya salad recipe

Kitchen Equipment for Making Papaya Salad

  • Lao Mortar and Pestle – Having this essential mortar and pestle set will last you decades (I’ve had mine going in 4 decades now). You can make other dishes for this including nam jaew dips as well as crush any fresh spices that you need to! If you don’t have one, you can just add the garlic, chiles, fermented fish sauce, sugar, and shrimp paste into a food processor until blended to a consistency. 
  • Julienne Zig Zag Blade – This will allow you to scrape off the cut papaya trimmings after making the cuts. It will shred the papaya (and any vegetable really) within minutes with a consistent size. Not only is it a safer method to peel papaya salad, but it will also save you a lot of time. 

About the Recipe

The recipe I’m going to share with you is an authentic Lao papaya salad recipe. As much as others want to call their recipes Lao without using fermented fish sauce, I’m here to take a stance that it is NOT truly a Lao recipe if you do not use fermented fish sauce. This is the heart of the recipe that provides the extra layer of umami that you won’t find in any other versions.

It is best to eat the green papaya salad as soon as you dress it because the shredded papaya salad can get soggy. You can definitely prepare the ingredients for assembly, but don’t mix them until you are ready to serve it.

Recipe for Lao Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 green unripened papaya
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Thai bird eye chiles
  • 1 tablespoon of padaek, fermented fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of nam pu, shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced

Accompaniments

  • 1 cup of green long beans, chopped into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 Thai/kermit egg plants, cut into wedges
  • Thai basil, washed
  • Prepared sticky rice
  • Pork crackle rinds, also known as chicharron
  • Cabbage

Directions for making Lao green papaya salad

Prepare the papaya by thoroughly washing the outside.

Peel the papaya with a peeler and ensure you wash the sap off as much as possible.

Next, start making cuts into the peeled papaya at 1/8 inch intervals and use the Julienne Zig Zag blade to shred the papaya flesh (if you don’t have a blade, you can just use a knife to cut the papaya perpendicular to the cuts to create long thin shreds).

lao papaya salad recipe

When you start seeing the immature seeds of the papaya salad, stop and move to the next part of the papaya and repeat the shredding process. Discard and remove any seeds that may accidentally get into your bowl. Set aside.

Get the mortar and pestle. Add in and pound the garlic, sugar, and Thai chile peppers together. Hint: As you start pounding, use one hand to cover the mortar opening as you pound. Pound carefully so that the Thai chiles don’t go flying (avoiding your face and eyes).

Add shrimp paste and padaek. Try not to spill the padaek because it has a very pungent smell. Next, add the lime juice and pinch of MSG (optional).

Add the cherry tomatoes and lightly pound, allow the juices from the tomatoes to be released.  Take care not not pound the tomatoes too much because you want to keep slightly keep their shape and be plump and juicy.

Continue pounding, gently.

Lastly, add in the the shredded papaya, mix it in the mortar with a spoon.

The result should be a delicious meld of sweet, sour, salty and hot in your mouth!

lao style spicy green papaya salad

Serving Spicy Green Papaya Salad

This resulting salad is a medley of so many flavors and textures, which makes it a delicious snack on especially on a hot summer day!

Serve this additive dish with any of these accompaniments:

Summary

Lao spicy green papaya salad is additive and deliciously refreshing. This cornerstone dish made by the Lao community provides a punchy balance between umami, spicy, sweet, salty, and sour. Tham mak moong has quickly become well known around the world for its unique spiciness and flavor that is sure to make your mouth water for more. I hope you love this recipe. Check out my recipe for Thai spicy papaya salad. Let me know what you think!

Other Lao and Thai Recipes You Might Love

Lao papaya salad | Laos papaya salad | green papaya salad | thai green papaya salad

lao papaya salad recipe

Authentic Lao Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Lao spicy green papaya salad is additive and deliciously refreshing. This cornerstone dish made by the Lao community provides a punchy balance between umami, spicy, sweet, salty, and sour.

Ingredients

  • 1 green unripened papaya
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Thai bird eye chiles (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of padaek, fermented fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of nam pu, shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced

Accompaniments

  • 1 cup of green long beans, chopped into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 Thai/kermit egg plants, cut into wedges
  • Thai basil, washed
  • Sticky Rice
  • Pork crackle rinds, also known as chicharron
  • Cabbage

Instructions

Prepare the Papaya

  1. Prepare the papaya by thoroughly washing the outside.
  2. Peel the papaya with a peeler and ensure you wash the sap off as much as possible.
  3. Next, start making cuts into the peeled papaya at 1/8 inch intervals and use the Julienne Zig Zag blade to shred the papaya flesh (if you don't have a blade, you can just use a knife to cut the papaya perpendicular to the cuts to create long thin shreds).
  4. When you start seeing the immature seeds of the papaya salad, stop and move to the next part of the papaya and repeat the shredding process. Discard and remove any seeds that may accidentally get into your bowl. Set aside.


Mix the Ingredients Together

  1. Get the mortar and pestle. Add in and pound the garlic, sugar, and Thai chile peppers together. Hint: As you start pounding, use one hand to cover the mortar opening as you pound. Pound carefully so that the Thai chiles don't go flying (avoiding your face and eyes).
  2. Add shrimp paste and padaek. Try not to spill the padaek because it has a very pungent smell. Next, add the lime juice and pinch of MSG (optional).
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes and lightly pound, allow the juices from the tomatoes to be released.  Take care not not pound the tomatoes too much because you want to keep slightly keep their shape and be plump and juicy.
  4. Continue pounding, gently.
  5. Lastly, add in the the shredded papaya, mix it in the mortar with a spoon.
  6. Serve with accompaniments.


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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 111Total Fat: 2.3gSaturated Fat: 0.4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 629mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 3.8gSugar: 15gProtein: 2.6g

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Guy

Saturday 14th of March 2020

Hi Lane. Can you elaborate on the Nam Pu? Maybe show photos of brands you like?

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