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Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

Despite being the end of October, Melbourne is still only teasing us with the prospect of summer. One tantalizing day of 30 degrees and sunshine, followed by yet another cold, grey rainy day, is certainly testing my patience for winter. Fortunately, like 90% of all Melbourne office workers, I am taking a self-declared ‘Extra Long Weekend’ next weekend in celebration of the Melbourne Cup and will be heading up to the Sunshine Coast for some much needed Vitamin D.

In the meantime, a food that always reminds me of hot, tropical weather is Som Tam  (Green Papaya Salad).

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

The Brooding Architect and I learned how to make Som Tam at the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The day started with market tour, followed by a walking tour of the organic farm at the Cooking School (all of the fruit, vegetables and herbs used in the classes are all grown on site) and a full day of cooking. Well worth the $30 (1000 Thai Baht) investment, if you ever happen to find yourself in that part of the world with a free day on your hands.

Personally I like to leave the dried shrimp out of my Som Tam recipe, as the instructor at the Cooking School explained that these dried shrimp are full of chock full of chemicals and preservatives – hence their often fluorescent pink colour. If you like to live (deliciously) dangerously though, pound up half a dozen dried shrimp in a mortar and pestle and add this into your salad dressing.

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

(Serves 4)


  • 2 cups of shredded green papaya. (To prepare, peel the papaya and rinse under running water. Remove the seeds and shred the flesh with a grater, or in the food processor)
  • 2-4 Thai hot chillies (depending on personal taste)
  • 2-3 peeled cloves of garlic (depending on size)
  • 3 Tablespoons of lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons of caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup snake beans,  chop into pieces about 3 cm long (alternatively, substitute with green beans if you can’t track down green beans)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 6 pieces each
  • 4 Tablespoons of chopped peanuts (plus extra to serve)
  • 2  Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt


  1. To make the dressing, place garlic, snake beans and chillies in a mortar and pestle, pound with the pestle until crushed. Add tomato and pound lightly – you still want some shape and texture. (Alternatively, place all of these ingredients into a food processor or blender and blitz for 1 or 2 minutes).  Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce  and salt. Mix until well combined.    
  2. Toss the dressing and peanuts through the shredded papaya.  Garnish the salad with extra peanuts to serve.
  3. Serve with steamed rice and grilled chicken or fish as a light summer dinner.

2 Comments on “Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)”

  1. leaf (the indolent cook) said at 12:07 pm on October 23, 2011:

    Green papaya salad is so refreshing! Also, I never use the pink dried shrimp. There are still good quality ones out there!

  2. The Hungry Lawyer said at 2:41 pm on October 23, 2011:

    Leaf: Agreed. Green papaya salad is very refreshing – particularly on steamy Melbourne day’s like today!

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