We had a Thai inspired dinner the other evening. This som tam was served with a spicy potek soup and Jasmine rice. In Brazil we frequently ate green papaya at home but the way my mother made it was completely different. She cooked it with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and sometimes stewed with tomatoes. That was good, but not as incredible as this Thai dish that is just packed with amazing flavors: spicy, sour, umami, salty, sweet and crunchy. I love it!
1 lb shredded green (unripe) papaya (I used a mandolin to shred it)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 Thai bird’s eye chili pepper
8 fresh green beans, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 large clove fresh garlic
Juice of 4 limes or more
½ tsp sugar
4 heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
Japanese cucumber slices
In Thailand, it is fun to watch green papaya salad being prepared by street vendors. They pound garlic, sugar, tomato and green beans in a large mortar and pestle right in front of you. Then they add the papaya, lime juice and pound it again to bruise everything to release flavors. It is like a cooking demonstration on the side of the road. I don’t have a mortar so I improvised a bit. I placed the green beans between 2 layers of saran wrap and flattened them with the rolling pin. I squeezed the tomatoes a bit with my hands. I grated the garlic and chili pepper with a micro-plane grater. Then everything was mixed together and let macerate for about 20 minutes before going to the table. The delicious Japanese cucumber slices helped cool down the heat of the salad. Serve on a few leaves of lettuce with some cucumbers on the side.