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Green papaya salad (som tam)

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Authentic Thai cuisine

salads, the classics

Difficulty: Super Easy

Even if you’ve never been to Thailand, I’m sure you’ve heard of som tam – the most famous Thai salad. It seems to me I’ve been eating it since I was born. You could say I grew up with the taste of shredded green (unripe) papaya. This is a family recipe and making it is second nature to me. It was our equivalent of an English Sunday roast, except we ate it every day. My family even matched my age to the number of chillies they used (five chillies when I was five years old and so on). This trained me to enjoy the wonderful stinging heat of chillies.

Tools: Pestle And Mortar


2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1-10 red bird’s eye chillies (depending on how brave you are)
5 small (or 2–3 large) garlic cloves
1 1⁄2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 yard-long beans (or green beans), cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (or 2 teaspoons salt)
1⁄2 medium green papaya, peeled and shredded
1 carrot, shredded
2 tablespoons dried shrimp (leave out for a vegetarian alternative)


  1. In a small, dry frying pan, toast the peanuts over a medium heat until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. (There’s also a ready-toasted alternative you can find in the supermarkets).
  2. Coarsely pound the chillies and garlic together using a pestle and mortar. Add the palm sugar, beans and tomatoes. Lightly pound to combine, then squeeze in the lime juice and fish sauce.
  3. Lightly pound again, then add the green papaya and carrot. Pound again and toss to combine. The taste should be sweet and salty in perfect balance, with a sharp, sour and spicy tang.
  4. Spoon the salad into a serving bowl and sprinkle over the dried shrimp and toasted peanuts.

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