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Authentic Thai Spicy Green Papaya Salad Recipe – Homemade Som Tum

If you have ever had a taste of Thai spicy green papaya salad at a local Thai restaurant, you know the amazing meld of spicy, sour, salt, sweet that comes with this dish. I’m going to share with you how to make this papaya salad right at home!

Thai green papaya salad is known as som tum. Translated, som means sour and tum means the act of pounding. It is an addicting and light salad that has amazing layers of of spicy, sour, sweet, salty and umami flavors  that also has amazing textures in every single bite.

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

thai green papaya salad recipe easy simple

Popularity of Thai Style Green Papaya Salad

Thailand adapted this recipe from its neighbors in Laos. Before submitting it to the world stage as one of the recipes in its repertoire, the middle class of Bangkok traded some of the overpowering ingredients like padaek and shrimp paste for the more subtle and lighter tones of fish sauce.

Once this adaptation was shared with the world, this dish became renowned across the globe and made its way as a staple in Thai restaurants in the United States.

There are some additional differences between Thai papaya salad and Lao papaya salad.

Thai Som Tum

Thai spicy papaya salad goes by many monikers, especially when you include the multitude of ways that it gets translated into western languages. 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:

  • Som Tam – This is the mild version of green papaya salad where the dressing is sweet and sour.
    Som Tam Boo Pla Ra – This is the Lao version that uses fermented fish sauce and crab in the recipe. This is also known as tham mak hoong.
  • Tam Ba – This translates to “jungle” which means that the salad includes a variety of ingredients which includes freshwater snails.
  • Tam Sua – This version includes fermented fish sauce as well as rice noodles.

Adapting and Adjusting Thai 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. 

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. 

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.

Shopping List for Thai Som Tum Ingredients in Your Local Asian Supermarket 

  • 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
  • Dried Shrimp – This can be found where all of the dry ingredients are. Generally, they are stored in bags.
  • Fish Sauce – This is a light brown, filtered fish sauce that provides the dressing to the papaya salad. The squid brand is what I prefer specifically for this dish.

thai spicy green papaya salad recipe 001

  • 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:

thai papaya salad recipe

Kitchen Equipment for Making Papaya Salad

  • 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 Thai papaya salad recipe. 

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 Thai Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 green unripened papaya, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Thai bird eye chiles
  • 2 tablespoons of filtered fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup of dried shrimp
  • 1/2 cup of peanuts, roasted

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 Thai 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).

thai 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 the fish sauce. 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. 

Add the dried shrimp.

Continue pounding, gently.

Add in the the shredded papaya and carrots, mix it in the mortar with a spoon.

Roast the peanuts over a stove until toasted. Use a food processor to roughly chop the peanuts. 

Plate the Thai spicy green papaya salad. Garnish with peanuts. Serve!

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

thai style spicy green papaya salad

Serving Spicy Green Papaya Salad

This resulting salad is a medley of so many flavors and textures. You can this delicious dish with any of these accompaniments:

Summary

Thai spicy green papaya salad is additive and deliciously refreshing. It provides a punchy balance between umami, spicy, sweet, salty, and sour. Som tum 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 Lao spicy green papaya salad recipe as well.  Let me know what you think!

More Thai Recipes That You’ll Love

thai green papaya salad

Authentic Thai Spicy Green Papaya Salad

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

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

Ingredients

  • 1 green unripened papaya, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 Thai bird eye chiles (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of filtered fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup of dried shrimp
  • 1/2 cup of peanuts, roasted

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 the fish sauce. 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. Add the dried shrimp.
  5. Continue pounding, gently.
  6. Add in the the shredded papaya and carrots, mix it in the mortar with a spoon.
  7. Roast the peanuts over a stove until toasted. Use a food processor to roughly chop the peanuts. 
  8. Plate the Thai spicy green papaya salad.
  9. Garnish with peanuts. Serve!


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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 150Total Fat: 2.3gSaturated Fat: 0.4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 629mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 3.8gSugar: 15gProtein: 2.6g

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