An unmistakable taste of Thailand, som tam is a classic Thai dish. Usually made with green papaya, this deliciously addictive dish is as versatile as it is spicy. Som tam originates from the north-east of Thailand, but is popular all over the country. Although it can be eaten on its own, som tam really comes into its own when teamed up with other Isaan favourites including sticky rice and grilled chicken. The most popular main ingredient is green papaya, but cucumber is one alternative if you are preparing the dish at home and can’t find green papaya in the shops. Chef and Thai food expert, Gary Butler aka The Roaming Cook, shares his recipe for this classic Thai dish. Over to you, Gary.
This is up there as one of my favourite Thai dishes of all time. It’s vibrant, crunchy, spicy and fresh. A great side dish to grilled meats or just on its own as a refreshing snack in the heat. It really takes some beating. In the recipe below, I’m dulling down the heat for Western tastes, but if you like it hot swap the red chilli for a couple of Thai bird’s-eye chillies. In Thailand, som tam would usually be made using a wooden pestle and a clay mortar. But you can use a large heavy mixing bowl and a wooden rolling pin as a good alternative.
Som Tam recipe
Serves: 1-2 people.
Preparation time: 10 minutes.
Cooking time: 5 minutes.
- 1 large green papaya (or 2 small ones).
- 1 garlic clove.
- Handful cherry tomatoes (halved).
- Handful peanuts (roasted or fried).
- 5 snake/long beans or a handful of french beans.
- 1-2 Thai bird’s-eye chillies or one large red chilli if you don’t want it too spicy.
- 1 tbs fish sauce (or Thai light soy if you want it vegetarian).
- 2 tbs tamarind juice.
- 2 limes squeezed (save the empty limes).
- 1 tsp palm sugar dissolved in boiling water.
- 6-8 dried prawns (optional).
- Peel the skin off the papaya, cut in half and scrape out the seeds.
- Grate the papaya with a Julienne peeler or grater.
- Mix all the wet ingredients in a bowl. The sauce should be sweet, sour and salty.
- Pound the chilli and garlic in the pestle and mortar (or mixing bowl), then add the beans and dried prawns (if using prawns). Bruise and then add the papaya, tomatoes, and peanuts.
- Pour in the sauce.
- With a large spoon in one hand and the pestle in the other (this may take some practice), scoop and pound until everything is well combined and the juice of the tomatoes has made its way into the dressing.
- Scoop onto a plate, making sure you get all that lovely dressing.
- Serve with absolutely anything or just eat it on its own.
This som tam recipe is from The Roaming Cook website and used here with the kind permission of Gary Butler.
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The Roaming Cook
Originally from the UK, Gary now lives in Bangkok with his wife and young son. A passionate foodie, Gary is equally at home at a simple street food stall as he is at an upmarket restaurant. Follow The Roaming Cook for insider travel tips and advice on where to eat during your trip to Thailand.