Green Papaya Salad

dsc_1592RECIPE #359, DAY #537

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Som Tam Thai/Central Thai-Style Papaya Salad,” from Andy Ricker in Pok Pok*

TIMING: 30 minutes, including time to make the tamarind water

DIFFICULTY: Experience would be helpful

TOOLS: Mortar and pestle and a small pan

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: I don’t know much about the health properties of these ingredients, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s at least as healthy for you as your typical green salad with vinaigrette.

EXPERIENCE: This was the salad course for Thai night at our supper club. Even though I have been to Thai restaurants tens and maybe hundreds of times in my life, I have never tried the ubiquitous Green Papaya Salad. I guessed it was about time to try it.

Everyone enjoyed it, but more as an experiment than something to order next time they were out. It is refreshing and exciting, but it is also very foreign. It is definitely worth trying, on Thai night. But you will have to hie thee to the Asian grocer (or online) to procure:

  • green papaya
  • dried shrimp
  • tamarind paste
  • fish sauce
  • long beans

Honestly, I could definitely do without the dried shrimp.

NOTES: You need a microwave to soften your palm sugar. I don’t have one, so I substituted brown sugar instead.

Despite that Thai food isn’t Thai food without it, I am not very fond of fish sauce. I often cut it in half and use soy sauce to round it out. Sacrilege! and yet…


  1. In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil with 1 ounce tamarind paste. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes. Mash up the tamarind paste and then strain it. Set aside the tamarind water.
  2. Rinse and dry 1 tablespoon medium dried shrimp. Heat a small pan over medium heat and add the shrimp, stirring until they are crispy. Set aside.
  3. In a mortar, work together 1 garlic clove, 2 Thai chilies, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar until they form a chunky paste. Add 3 wedges of lime and pound to bruise. Add the shrimp and pound to bruise. Move to a serving bowl and add 1/2 cup long beans cut into 2-inch pieces. Pound them to bruise, as well.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the tamarind water, and 1 1/2 cups grated green papaya. Pound gently for 10 seconds, basting with the juice on the bottom.
  5. Add 6 halved cherry tomatoes and bruise. Add 2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts.
  6. Serve the salad with the juice and wedges of white cabbage.


Serve as the starter for a Thai meal. I love Thai curries and jasmine rice, especially with a Thai iced tea.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: This does not keep, at all. Eat it up now or forever hold your peace.

*Recipe has been changed from the original.


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