A fresh and zesty Thai green papaya salad that works perfectly on its own or with grilled fish or seafood.
I remember the first time I ate green papaya salad – I was travelling through Thailand and the bus had pulled up beside a roadside stall for a quick break.
I’d learnt from experience that these stops could be as long or as short as the driver wished, so I ordered promptly from the small menu before settling onto an uncomfortably low plastic stool and waiting.
What turned up looked pretty unassuming – a colourful shredded salad named som tam with some grilled prawns on the side.
It took one bite for me to reassess the situation. The fresh flavours of the vegetables were elevated by the sour, pungent and spicy dressing. It was so hot and sharp, the perfect offset to the juicy, firm prawns.
It was my first encounter with a Thai papaya salad – safe to say, it wasn’t my last.
From there on in, I searched every menu for what was fast becoming my favourite dish – and when I took a cooking class with a Thai chef at the Anantara in Phuket, it was the first dish I requested for the menu.
If eating som tam talay had been a feast for the senses, learning an authentic green papaya salad recipe was an eye-opener. All of a sudden, it all made sense – the sourness from the lime juice, the sweetness from the palm sugar, the pungency from the shrimp paste and fish sauce – it seemed so simple.
Best of all – it’s a recipe you can easily adapt to suit your own tastes. Don’t like the heat? Dial down the chillies. Want it really sour? Add more lime juice. The best green papaya salad is the one that suits your tastes.
Top Tips for Making Green Papaya Salad
Preparing the Limes
You should use fresh lime juice for the dressing. One of my favourite tips I picked up in Thailand is to roll each lime a couple of times under the palm of your hand before you cut it to allow you to extract the maximum juice from the lime when you squeeze it.
If you’re not using a juicer to juice the limes, squeeze them over your cupped palm to catch the seeds and stop them from going into the dressing.
How to Shred Green Papaya for Salad
Unless you’re knife skills are super-sharp, you’re going to want a little help with julienning the green papaya for this salad.
Don’t use a box grater as it cuts the papaya too short and thin, resulting in a wet, limp salad (bleurgh – I made this mistake once and never made it again).
I have an (ever-useful) spiralizer, so this is what I use to prepare my green papaya (don’t forget to cut some of the longest shreds into a few pieces to make it easier to eat), otherwise, the best option is a julienne peeler.
Making the Green Papaya Salad Dressing
It’s much easier to take the dry ingredients for the som tam talay dressing, add a little bit of liquid to form a paste and then mix with the remaining liquids than to mix them all together in one go.
Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) Recipe
Try this zingy Thai green papaya salad recipe - a quick, easy and healthy salad that’s bursting with flavour.
- 1 medium green papaya, julienned
- 3 tsp palm sugar
- Juice of 2 limes
- Small bunch of coriander (optional)
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 birds eye chillies
- 2 banana shallots
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- 3 tbsp salted roasted peanuts
- Toast the peanuts in a small frying pan until a light brown. Remove from the heat and put to the side.
- Roughly chop the cherry tomatoes.
- Finely shred the shallots.
- Add the chillies and garlic to a pestle and mortar, pound to a coarse paste, add the shrimp paste and palm sugar, pound until blended.
- Add the lime juice and the fish sauce and pound. Taste the sauce - add more palm sugar / fish sauce / lime juice to suit.
- Add the tomatoes, shallots, papaya, carrot, peanuts and coriander (if using). Lightly pound and mix until the vegetables are coated in the dressing.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 409Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 3035mgCarbohydrates: 82gFiber: 11gSugar: 51gProtein: 11g
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