Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thai Papaya Salad

Do you ever crave something you've never had before? No? Just me?

A while back, I was craving som tam (ส้มตำ), Thai green papaya salad, even though I had never had it before. Just looking at the list of ingredients, I knew I wanted it, knew I would love it. Shredded unripe papaya, tomatoes, green beans, dried shrimp, peanuts, hot chiles, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce. I finally had it for the first time at Sab E Lee, and, seriously, I could do shots of the dressing, it's that good. Then recently I decided I needed to make it myself.

So I consulted with Leela from She Simmers, using her recipe, and asking her a couple questions along the way. I have a mortar and pestle, but it's the Mexican kind with the rough granite. My instinct told me I needed a smooth-sided mortar to make som tam, so I used a large cutting board and a metal bowl, and alternated between the granite pestle and my meat tenderizer. Don't laugh. It worked.

Aside from an altercation with the vegetable peeler, in which I removed a fair-sized chunk from my thumb, everything came together nicely. Lots of pounding, crushing, mixing, more pounding. It's a fair amount of work for a salad, but any time I get to pound on things, it's worth it.

Will I make it again? Hell, yes. But I think I'll ask my husband to peel the papaya.


Kitt said...

I've always wanted to make that! Even bought green papaya once to do so, but had no time before the papaya went bad. It just sounds so delish.

Ikea has little mortars for $10. I use mine all the time.

caninecologne said...

wow, kudos to you for making that...it's kind of nice and visceral using a mortar and pestle, isn't it.

if you want, you can buy already shredded (and peeled) green papaya at thuan phat (vietnamese grocery store) on linda vista road.

Mrs. Itazura said...

Hey, great job, it looks yummy!

I'm sure with your location you've got relatively easy access to a Thai grocer. If you were looking for one, they usually have huge clay mortars with wooden pestles (here they're about 26 bucks or so, really quite inexpensive and it will get a lot of use) that work fantastically for papaya salad.

Also, even better than dried shrimp is a bit of fermented crab (I find it in tubs with screw tops.) It's so wonderfully funky, loaded with flavor and it will last forever shoved to the back of the fridge- a good thing since it doesn't take much at all!

I really enjoy your blog, the random quotes especially.

Vicki said...

Hi Kitt! This dish is amazing - please make it when you get the chance, you won't be disappointed.

Hi CC - If only Linda Vista weren't so far away from me!

Hi Mrs. Itazura - Thanks for the fermented crab tip, I'll have to try that. & thanks for your compliments!

esther said...

wow! I didn't know it was so complicated to make this! I guess that's the REAL way. =) Looks good!

I make a super simple version by adding fish sauce and sugar and letting it marinate, along with some heat from chilies. I don't even have a mortar and pestle!

Vicki said...

Hi Esther - I'm tempted to try your way for when I really want som tam, but don't want to take the time!

Shina Willson said...

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