Papaya salad is one of my favs. I’m really not sure if it originated in Northern Thailand or Laos. Every Lao will say it’s a Lao dish. And I’m sure Thais say the same thing. It’s called Som Tom in Thai and Tom Som in Lao. The Thai version is more sweet and sour, not so spicy. The Lao version is spicier and saltier. I love how my mom makes it. It’s like a nuclear explosion of spices went off in mouth. She makes it sooooo hot it leaves a ringing in your ears. And I learned how to make it from her. But…most are familiar with the Thai version.
- 4 cups shredded green papaya
- 1 julienned peeled carrot or 1 cup cup long green beans
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 Thai chilis (PG rated)
- 1/2-3/4 fresh lime juice
- 3-4 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pa)
- 1-2 tablespoon sugar
Lao Version- also add the following:
- 2 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 tablespoon pickled crab sauce
- 1 tablespoon fermented anchovy sauce (pa deak)
- add an obscene amount of Thai chilis
- Clay mortar & pestal
- Papaya Shredder
Start by peeling the papaya and rinsing off the milky residue. Then shred the papaya into strips. There’s a technique to shredding the papaya with a knife. It takes a lot of practice and a few cuts to get it down.
Hold the papaya lengthwise in one hand and use a knife to smack it with your other hand. Continue to do so until you create 1/2″ deep cuts all around the papaya. Next, thinly slice against the cuts to produce long then strips.
Huuummmm… (I’m staring at the computer screen with concern for your fingers)..Yeah it’s pretty complicated, just use a papaya shredder. You can pick one up at any Asian store.
*Kiwi papaya shredder pictured. I do not want to be responsible for fingerless customers.
Add the garlic and Thai chilis to the mortar and pound with the pestle until mashed. I prefer dried Thai chilis or a combination of dried and fresh Thai chilis. (Have you noticed my emphasis on THAI CHILIS. Don’t use any other chilis. It won’t taste right.)
Add the remaining ingredients. Start on the low end of the measurements. You can adjust the ingredients later to get the right balance of salty, sweet, and sour.