| | | |

Som Tam Pla Ra

This post may contain links to affiliate websites, such as Amazon, and I receive an affiliate commission for any purchases made by you using these links. I appreciate your support!

Som tam pla ra is the perfect Thai salad for summer. Originating from Northeastern Thailand, Isan, it’s a funky version of green papaya salad with fermented fish sauce as a key ingredient.

Som tam pla ra, Thai papaya salad with fermented fish sauce, served with fresh vegetables.

My favorite Thai food is absolutely Thai salads! I love larb moo, nam tok neua, and also the dish we’re going to make today. It’s a salad I grew up with, so you won’t find a more authentic recipe than this.

What is som tam pla ra

Som tam pla ra is a Northeastern Thai papaya salad known for its bold flavors. It’s made with shredded green papaya, fermented fish sauce (pla ra), chili, and lime. This salad is refreshing with a dressing that’s spicy, sour, and rich in umami.


Pla ra is Thai for fermented fish sauce. Som tam pla ra translates to papaya salad with fermented fish sauce.

Thai papaya salad variations

Did you know papaya salad comes in many flavors? Each part of Thailand has its unique twist on som tam or som tum.

This recipe focuses on som tum pla ra from Northeastern Thailand. There’s also a version called som tam poo pla ra, which includes fresh crab typically caught in local rice fields. In the same rural region, we have tam sua, which is similar but includes rice vermicelli noodles.

Som tum Thai is popular everywhere, even in the West. It’s known for its addition of peanuts and well-balanced salty, sour, and spicy dressing. If you’re new to Thai cuisine, I suggest starting with this one.

Som tam pla ra served with a side of fresh vegetables.

Som tam pha is another version that mixes lots of different ingredients like pickled vegetables, freshwater snails, bamboo, bean sprouts, and rice vermicelli.

Even Laos, the neighboring country of Thailand, has its own version: Lao papaya salad.

And that’s exactly what’s fun about Thai cooking! One dish can come in so many different forms, flavors, and scents. There will also never be one recipe that is perfect for everyone; there’s so much variation.

Fermented fish sauce

A quick word about the key ingredient, fermented fish sauce.

In Isan, we use pla ra in almost every dish. My grandmother likes to add a big splash of it to everything, even fresh vegetables!

Hand presenting a small bottle of traditional Thai fermented fish sauce.
A bottle of fermented fish sauce.

The making of fermented sauce involves pickling fish with salt and letting it ferment in a sealed container for up to a year.

I remember many people in Isan used to make their own homemade fermented fish sauce when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can find it factory made at local food markets in Thailand and in Asian supermarkets all over the world.

If you’re new to it, it has quite a strong pungent smell that might surprise you at first, but it adds so much umami, so don’t skimp on it.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for som tum pla ra: green papaya, chilies, yard long beans, tomatoes, garlic, fermented fish sauce, tamarind paste, palm sugar, and fresh lime juice.
  • Unripe green papaya – Choose an unripe papaya fruit that is firm and deep green.
  • Fresh red chilies – I used Thai Jinda chilies, but you can mix things up with bird’s eye chilies or use a milder type.
  • Dried chilies I like to add dried chilies for spicy papaya salad. This is optional.
  • Yardlong beans – These are also known as snake beans and Chinese long beans.
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Fish sauceFish sauce is a salty, fermented condiment that adds umami and depth to Thai food.
  • Fermented fish sauceFermented fish sauce, a key ingredient in Isan cuisine, is a must-have for authentic somtam plara.
  • Tamarind pasteTamarind paste is a tangy and slightly sweet concentrate used in Thai cuisine to add a sweet-sour flavor.
  • Palm sugarPalm sugar adds a caramel-like sweetness that’s distinct from white and brown sugar.
  • Lime Fresh lime juice is a key ingredient for adding a tangy flavor to the salad dressing.

How to make som tum pla ra

Prepped vegetables and shredded papaya in a bamboo dish.

Step 1: Cut the yardlong beans into medium pieces and slice the tomatoes. Shred the papaya.

Clay mortar with crushed garlic and chilies.

Step 2: Pound the dried and fresh chilies with garlic using a mortar and pestle.

Mortar and pestle with crushed spices and yard long beans.

Step 3: Mix the beans with the pounded ingredients in your mortar.

Clay mortar with yard long beans and salad dressing.

Step 4: Add fish sauce, fermented fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind paste, lime juice, and lime peel. Blend well with your pestle.

Making som tam pla ra in a mortar and pestle with a large pink spoon on a wooden background.

Step 5: Add tomatoes and shredded papaya. Gently mix the dressing with the other ingredients. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Kitchenware

  • Sharp knife or vegetable shredder (for shredding your green papaya fruit)
  • Cutting board and a sharp knife (for prepping vegetables)
  • Thai mortar and pestle

How to prepare papaya for salad

If you don’t know how to shred papaya, don’t worry, it’s simple. You just need a sharp vegetable peeler and a comfortable knife.

1. First, use the peeler to take off the green skin. It’s easy if the peeler is sharp. Then, cut off both ends of the fruit with your knife.

Peeler papaya on a cutting board.

2. To shred the papaya, hold it in one hand and make shallow chops with your knife in the other hand. Turn the papaya slowly as you chop.

Chopping green papaya with a knife.

3. After chopping, slice off the layers with your knife to make thin shreds. Alternatively, you can use a vegetable shredder. These shreds are perfect for soaking up flavors from the dressing.

Shredding green papaya with a knife.

Serving papaya salad with fermented fish sauce

In Thailand, this salad is typically enjoyed for lunch or dinner with Thai sticky rice and lots of fresh vegetables like cucumbers and Thai eggplants. Feel free to pair it with a refreshing drink like green Thai tea to temper the heat.

How to store

Enjoy this som tam salad right after you make it – it’s best when fresh. If you need to store it, put it in an airtight container in the fridge, but try to eat it within a day. The taste and texture won’t be the same after a while, so it’s better to finish it off quickly.

Authentic Thai salad recipes

Loved reading this som tam pla ra recipe? Please make my day by dropping a star rating and/or a comment below! Follow me on social media: FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Som Tam Pla Ra

Som tam pla ra, Thai papaya salad with fermented fish sauce, served with fresh vegetables.
This som tam pla ra recipe is easy and authentic, full of fresh vegetables and a tasty dressing.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Salad
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 chilies add to taste
  • 4 dried chilies add to taste
  • 4 yard long beans
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fermented fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • ½ lime
  • 1 large tomato or several small ones
  • 250 g shredded papaya

Instructions

  • Cut the yardlong beans into medium pieces and slice the tomatoes. Shred the papaya.
  • Pound the dried and fresh chilies with garlic using a mortar and pestle.
  • Mix the beans with the pounded ingredients in your mortar.
  • Add fish sauce, fermented fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind paste, lime juice, and lime peel. Blend well with your pestle.
  • Add tomatoes and shredded papaya. Gently mix the dressing with the other ingredients. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • You can find how to shred papaya in the recipe post.

Similar Posts

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating