Green Papaya Salad has delectable, sweet, spicy, and savoury flavours. Here is an easy Thai-style vegan som tam salad recipe that you will love.
About Som Tam Thai
Som Tam Thai is one of Thailand’s most famous green papaya salads. In the native language, the shredded unripe papaya salad is called Som Tam.
Traditionally this salad is entirely made in a giant mortar and pestle, from making dressing to gently crushing the papaya; all is done in a mortar.
Even though som tam originates in Central Thailand, these days, you can find it everywhere across the country as street food. Over the years, it has become a popular street food among Thailand tourists.
Its popularity is due to the unique sweet, sour, and savoury flavours from fermented fish sauce, plum sugar, Bird’s eye chilli, and loads of fresh herbs.
I am sharing a gluten-free and vegan green papaya salad recipe made with readily available ingredients.
Ingredients For Salad
Papaya: Green, unripe papaya is the star ingredient of this salad recipe. It is easily available in Asian grocery stores worldwide and has a particular taste. Do not use ripe, yellow, sweet-tasting papaya. When shopping for a green papaya, look for firm fruit that feels heavy for its size. If the fruit is squishy, look for another one.
Veggies: I add shredded carrot, cucumber, cherry tomato, and thinly sliced red bell pepper to the papaya salad.
Other Salad Essentials: Roasted Peanuts, Mung Bean Sprouts, Fresh Coriander or Cilantro
Ingredients For Dressing
The dressing is the highlight of the som tam salad recipe. I am listing the required ingredients and their best possible substitutes.
- Garlic: I use Chinese garlic for its bold aroma and sharp taste.
- Chilli: Bird’s Eye Chilli is essential to all Thai recipes. You can substitute it with any spicy fresh red chilli variety. Apart from fresh red chilli, I add chilli flakes and red chilli paste.
- Tomato: I gently crush two cherry tomatoes into the dressing for a sour and sweet taste.
- Soy Sauce: Use good quality, light soy sauce. It is an excellent vegan replacement for fish sauce.
- Rice Vinegar gives a tartness to the dressing and balances the sweetness.
- Sugar: If you can get plum syrup, nothing like it, or else add dark brown sugar or jaggery powder.
- Oil: I like the nutty flavour of sesame oil in my dressing. You can add groundnut or peanut oil, also.
- Fresh Lime Juice and Salt
How To Prepare Green Papaya
The traditional way to prepare green papaya for som tam is to peel it and cut it by hand into strips with a sharp knife. This is how you will see the most street vendor’s doing in Thailand. But I am still not pro at this method.
Hence, here is how I prepare green papaya for the salad.
Step 1) Remove the green skin of the papaya using a peeler. Wash it with water.
Step 2) Now, use a manual julienne peeler or shredder and run it down the length of the papaya to get even size long papaya strands. Avoid using a standard grater or food processor, which creates too thin shreds, resulting in a soggy som tam.
Similarly, shred carrots also, for the salad. I thinly slice my cucumber and bell pepper rather than shredding them for a crunchy texture.
How To Make Dressing
Step 1: Take a mortar and pestle, add garlic, red chilli, and cherry tomato. Crush them using a pestle. Be careful while pounding, as a splash of this spicy paste might get into your eyes.
Step 2: Add the remaining ingredients of the dressing into the same mortar and mix them.
Taste, and if required, add more salt or chilli or sugar.
The dressing for the papaya salad is now ready. You can store it in the refrigerator or use it immediately.
Assemble The Salad
Traditionally the shredded green papaya is added to the same mortar as dressing and gently pounded along with other salad ingredients.
Step 1: Transfer shredded papaya to a large salad bowl. Add half of the salad dressing and gently mix using your hand. I prefer wearing kitchen gloves for this purpose.
Step 2: Add the remaining veggies and the dressing. Mix them.
Step 3: Add crushed roasted peanuts and loads of fresh herbs before serving.
Green Papaya Salad is ready to serve.
The longer the papaya marinates with the dressing, the softer it will become. Hence, I do not recommend making it in advance. It is one salad that is best enjoyed fresh.
However, for meal prep, you can prepare the dressing and veggies in advance and store them in the refrigerator for 2 – 3 days.
If you try this recipe and love it, please leave a comment and a rating. This helps us grow and reach other food lovers like you.
Green Papaya Salad Recipe
- Salad Mixing Bowl
- Vegetable Peeler (Shredder)
- Mortar and Pestle
Ingredients For Salad Dressing
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 cherry tomato cut into halves
- 2 Thai chilli or red chilli
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon red chilli paste
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Ingredients For Salad
- 2 Cup shredded green papaya
- ¼ Cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
- ¼ Cup thinly sliced cucumber
- ¼ Cup shredded carrot
- 2 tablespoon mung bean sprouts
- 2 tablespoon roasted peanuts, crushed
- ¼ Cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
- Remove the green skin of the papaya using a peeler. Wash it with water.
- Now, use a manual julienne peeler or shredder and run it down the length of the papaya to get even size long papaya strands.
- To make salad dressing, take a mortar and pestle, add garlic, red chilli, and cherry tomato. Crush them using a pestle. Be careful while pounding, as a splash of this spicy paste might get into your eyes.
- Add the remaining dressing ingredients into the same mortar and mix them. Taste, and if required, add more salt or chilli or sugar. The dressing for the papaya salad is now ready.
- To assemble the salad, transfer shredded papaya to a large salad bowl. Add half of the salad dressing and gently mix using your hand. I prefer wearing kitchen gloves for this purpose.
- Add the remaining veggies and the dressing. Mix them nicely using your hands.
- Add crushed roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, and loads of fresh herbs before serving.
- Avoid using a standard grater or food processor to shred papaya, which creates too thin shreds, resulting in a soggy som tam.
- Thai Chilli is spicy; hence add it cautiously. You can substitute it with any other medium spicy red chilli.
- You can store the salad dressing in the refrigerator for 2 – 3 days or use it immediately.
- I do not recommend making it in advance. The longer the papaya marinates in the dressing, the softer it will become. It is one salad that is best enjoyed fresh.