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.