WANABE SOM TAM
If I miss anything about living in Thailand, it's not the beaches or the tropical weather. It's Som Tam or Spicy Green Papaya Salad in Thailand. I ate it every single day. For 6 years. If I didn't get my fix, I would drive aimlessly until I found the closest Som Tam cart. Usually every few 100m If this didn't work, I would depart immediately for Som Tam retailers who made papaya salad just the way I like it.
Because Som Tam is individual, it's personal. It's made bespoke to each customer and each retailer has their own twist on a national favourite. Some are more sweet, others go wild on the lime front. The ones I frequented were generous with their roasted peanut and dressing department. I am crazy for sauce. If you didn't know this already, know this now - all my dishes come with sauce. If you do not like sauce, this blog is not for you.
If you don't know what Som Tam is, it is this deliciously crunchy sweet sour delight of grated raw or unriped papayay goodness. Fresh and light and fragrant yet moreish and spicy and filling. So filling. You have to do a lot of chewing. The meal is crunchy and fibrous and juicy so you really have to eat it mindfully or things could get wild. Any time there is chopped fresh chilli you really need to monitor your mouthfuls to make sure a bomb doesn't go off in your mouth.
Tbh my sadistic side really likes playing Russian Roulette on my tastebuds. A perfect mouthful is a morsel so juicy and perfectly complex, it's a taste explosion. But too much ye shall live to regret. The chili will own you. It's not a meal to gobble. Traditionally served with wedges of raw cabbage. This you add to your Som Tam in bites to further customise the spice level while you are eating. Thai people will serve it on the side, I chop mine in right from the get go.
Back to Som Tam and how it changed my life. It didn't really. It left me with a hole in my stomach the shape of a bowl of Som Tam, where nothing other than Som Tam shall fill it. I know I'll never be able to make it the same as my local market lady, so I wont even insult the memory of it by attempting. Instead, when I get a craving now, I make something like this. My salad might actually be kinda healthy because I put no sugar in it. Swapping papaya for apple and pumpkin seeds gives you the crunchy and sweet chewiness the raw papaya usually would.
My Wanabe Som Tam recipe is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free and my version is also sugar-free. The apple is actually optional, if you don't feel like the sweet hit, just leave it out, like I did today. I didn't have the right kind of apples so I just rolled with kale and white savoy cabbage and it was yum. In Thailand, Som Tam sellers will often grill chicken skewers or prawns to go with the salad. I obv wont be doing that but add feel free to add your own protein to round out this simple summer salad.
WANABE SOM TAM or NOT PAPAYA SALAD
In Equal Portion (to fit 2/3 your bowl)
Chopped White Cabbage
Chopped Sprig of Coriander
1 greedy handful of Roasted Peanuts
1 greedy handful of Raw Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 Avocado cubed
1/2 Red Onion Finely Diced
1/2 Lime Squeezed Over
2 Chopped Green Chillis
1 Chopped Red Chilli
1 tsp of fish sauce - make it vegan: 2 tsp of soy
1 tsp of soy sauce
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp of either: dijon / dijonaise / aoil / vegan mayo
If you like: Himalayan Salt, White and Cracked Pepper. Put everything into the bowl and toss. Taste. Add more salt or sour to your taste by adding another spoon of soy or fish sauce or adding lime juice.
Toss again. Enjoy!
Thai cooks love layering spice and I must admit it's a habit I've absorbed into all my cooking to give a much richer flavour to all my food. They add both white and black pepper to most of their base broths, soups, curries and dressings instead of one or the other. As well as chilli and ginger and coriander and countless other spices on top. Whilst conservative with actual table salt, most Thai recipes derive salty flavours from inherently salty things like fish sauce, fish paste, dried or grilled seafood and soy sauce of course.
I don't put sugar in my dressing because I don't like it, if I need something sweet I prefer to put slices of apple instead but feel free to add sugar for authenticity if you want to. I haven't seen the palm sugar paste here that you would usually use in a dish like this so I would sub 1 tsp of brown or raw sugar as a close approximation.
Did you know about Som Tam? How does this marry up to what you are used to? Did you modify it at all? I love getting your snaps of your versions of my recipes - show me your Som Tam please! Show me on Snap: wellfitmumnz or holla at me on IG: @iamkatythomas <3