Som Tam – Green papaya salad
A Thai classic and oh my god I love it. Hot, spicy, sweet and sour…..
Served 3 of us for lunch
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-6 birds eye chillies
4 tablespoons unsalted, roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons dried prawns (shrimp)
2 tablespoons palm, brown or white sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind water, optional
2 tablespoons fish sauce
8 cherry tomatoes
2 snake beans, (or 50 g French beans)
1 green papaya, about 400 g in weight
100 g beansprouts
1 large carrot
¼ white cabbage or lettuce leaves, ie. Little gem or cos
For information on some of these ingredients go to ‘Continue reading’ below….
1. Peel garlic and remove stalk from chilli and bash well in a pestle and mortar with the salt. Add 2 tablespoons of the roasted peanuts and dried prawns, and continue bashing to a coarse paste. Scrape into a large serving bowl.
2. Squeeze the juice from the lime, and stir half into the bowl with the sugar, tamarind water (if using) and fish sauce.
3. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Top and tail the beans and slice into ½ cm lengths and add both to the bowl.
4. Peel the papaya, cut in half lengthwise then place cut side down on a board and slice thinly. Cut again into thin, long matchstick strips and add them to the bowl.
5. Peel the carrot, cut in half then slice each piece into thin slices and again into long matchstick strips.
6. Tip the beansprouts into the bowl, toss all together well and serve sprinkled with the remaining peanuts. Cut the cabbage into wedges, (or break up the leaves from the lettuce) and serve along side the salad to scoop into your mouth.
As I said info on ingredients below…..Birds eye chillies
These little chillies are extremely potent, so use with caution if you’re not keen on blowing your lips off! (as with all chillies, be careful not to poke yourself in the eye, or any other part of your anatomy after cutting chillies!) I’ve suggested 1-6 chillies here in this recipe, so vary depending on how much heat you can take. We played it safe and used just one chilli, which gave a subtle, little kick.
Unsalted, roasted peanuts
Here I used little red peanuts with their skins still on that I bought at the (brilliant) Taj Stores Indian supermarket on Brick Lane. I roasted them in a preheated 180 C/Gas 4 oven for about 6-8 minutes or until golden. (Break one open to check.) The thin papery skins will easily fall away when rubbed in a clean tea towel. Otherwise use natural, ready skinned and roasted peanuts, (though freshly toasted are so much nicer!) but not salted as there is lots of saltiness going on here already with the shrimp and fish sauce.
Dried prawns (shrimp)
Now I brought some of these little tiny babies back from Thailand last week. The markets there have a wide selection of them and from tasting them at the stalls, they varied in saltiness and sweetness.
Palm sugar comes in different guises. Sometimes as a solid lump, which you need to grate finely, or as a putty like paste in little tubs which you can spoon out, or as some supermarkets are now selling as little brown crystals to sprinkle in. The flavours vary too from sweet and caramely to sweet, dark and treacly. Substitute light brown or light brown muscovado sugar and if you don’t have any of that, then use good old white sugar.
Tamarind http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarind grows in large pods that go from green to brown when fully ripe, (with a dry husk) and produces large seeds inside that are surrounded by a lemony, sweet, sour and fudgy flesh. Delicious as a snack, dip in a little sugar, but also wonderful to flavour sweet and savoury dishes.
You can of course buy the pods and remove the flesh yourself or you can buy ready prepared tamarind with seeds as a sticky block or without seeds as a smooth paste. Pinch off some of the flesh with seeds and add boiling water to soften. Mix well to remove all the flesh and strain the resulting water through a sieve. But I used a teaspoon of tamarind paste and softened it with a tablespoon of boiling water in a cup.
Fish sauce (Nam pla)
Potent fishy sauce used throughout Asia as a salty condiment to flavour savoury dishes.
Available in Indian or Asian stores, these are the unripened version of the fruit (with ripe orange flesh) you are probably more familiar with. The flesh of the green papaya is white and firm and the fruit has no seeds. It is also fairly high in pectin, so great for making jams and jellies…..Watch this space!……
Snake beans or Yard long beans
Very, very long beans sold in bunches of whips! Use French, dwarf or Bobby beans instead.