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Som Tum Thai Recipe (Green Papaya Salad)

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This authentic som tum Thai recipe for green papaya salad is full of those delicious Thai flavors you love. It’s easy to make with healthy vegetables like juicy tomatoes, beans, and the best dressing you’ll ever taste!

Som tum Thai, green papaya salad, with peanuts and tomatoes.

This is my family recipe, passed down to me since I was a kid. It’s simple, delicious, and totally doable for every home cook.

You’ll need a mortar and pestle to make it. If you have one, you should definitely check out my collection of mortar and pestle recipes – with Lao papaya salad, long bean salad, and Thai corn salad being some of my favorites.

What is som tum Thai

Som tum Thai, a classic Thai papaya salad, includes shredded green papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, and a balanced dressing of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors. It’s a staple dish in Thai cuisine, perfect for a quick and healthy meal.

Thai papaya salad variations

My Thai food blog is full of unique recipes for Thai papaya salad. It’s a versatile dish that’s delicious in every way because you can change it up so easily.

As you travel through Thailand, you’ll notice each place makes it a bit differently, with its own take on flavors and ingredients.

Som tam pla ra

In the Northeastern part of Thailand, known as Isan, we have a love for all things spicy with strong, bold flavors. Som tam pla ra is our unique twist. This version typically includes crab and a funky traditional fermented fish sauce that’s a staple in Isan cuisine.

Growing up, I remember seeing jars of pungent homemade fermented fish sauce outside houses in Isan. These days, most people grab it from stores or markets instead.

Several flourishing papaya trees under tropical weather conditions, with the foreground tree showcasing hanging fruits.
My grandmother’s garden is full of papaya trees with beautiful fruits ready for making salads!

My grandmother used to catch fish herself to make this sauce during the rainy season. But now, she’s too old for that kind of work. She says the younger Thai people nowadays aren’t as into fishing and prefer just buying what they need. It’s sad to see, but many Thai traditions are fading away in Thailand.

Tam sua

Tam sua is a lot like som tum pla ra, both are super delicious with their own special ingredients. Tam sua includes rice vermicelli, which brings extra texture and makes it even more delicious and refreshing.

Som tum pha

Som tum pha is a variation of Thai papaya salad that’s full of different ingredients. It’s a surprising combination of pickled vegetables, freshwater snails, bamboo, bean sprouts, and many more. This salad is perfect for the Thai food experts.

Som tum Thai, Thai sticky rice, fried chicken, and boiled eggs.
In Thailand, som tum Thai is typically served with a side of Thai sticky rice, fried chicken, and boiled eggs.

You can even make papaya salad with a medium-ripe fruit, turning it into a totally different dish. The final flavor also greatly depends on the recipe that’s been handed down through generations in each Thai family that makes the salad.

Som tum

In this easy salad recipe, we’re making the version called som tum Thai, also known as som tam Thai. It’s basically the version that everyone loves.

It’s perfect for people who have just started discovering the delicious flavors of Thai kitchens. Not only is it great for those who are new to Thai food, but it’s also a common choice for those who already know and love Thai flavors, like me!

Close-up of som tum Thai, green papaya salad, with tomatoes and yard long beans.

This green papaya salad is one of my favorites because of its irresistible crunch, bright colors, a perfect flavor balance, and delicious peanuts. As a kid, I grew up eating som tum Thai, and I’ve been making it myself ever since.

If you’ve ever been to Thailand and explored the street food markets, you might have heard the rhythmic pounding of vendors using their mortars and pestles.

Close-up of a traditional Thai clay mortar and wooden pestle on a wooden background.
Traditionally, Thai papaya salad is always prepared with a clay mortar and wooden pestle.

A Thai mortar and pestle is key for making papaya salad. It extracts all the juicy flavors by pounding and crushing the ingredients together. It’s a staple in every Thai home and Thai restaurants all over the world.

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 sum tum Thai: green papaya shreds, yard-long beans, lime, tomatoes, roasted peanuts, palm sugar, and fish sauce.
  • Green papaya – To choose the best papaya for your salad, find one that’s deep green and feels firm, not soft. Keep it in the fridge so it stays fresh. You should be able to find fresh ones at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
  • Yard long beans – Yard long beans add a nice crunch and extra freshness to the salad.
  • Thai chilies – This version of papaya salad is meant to be balanced, not overwhelmingly spicy, making it great for first-timers. Tourists in Thailand usually get a less spicy version. For heat, use bird’s eye chilies; for a milder taste, go for a mild chili.
  • Small tomatoes / cherry tomatoes – Alternatively, you can use large tomatoes and cut them into smaller pieces.
  • Limes – Fresh lime juice is a must for the best flavor. Avoid the bottled stuff.
  • Garlic – Garlic is a flavor essential ingredient. In Thailand, we usually toss in the garlic cloves without peeling them beforehand, quick and easy.
  • Dry roasted peanuts Thai people often roast peanuts before adding them to dishes. It’s simple: heat a pan, roast the peanuts, then rub them in your hands to remove the skins and blow the skins away.
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar adds a caramel-like sweetness, distinct from white and brown sugar.
  • Fish sauce – Adding fish sauce makes dishes saltier and adds umami.
  • Dried mini shrimp (optional)

How to make green papaya salad

Step 1: Begin by peeling the papaya and grating it into thin slices. Cut the limes and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Chop the yard long beans into 1-inch sized pieces.Shredded papaya, sliced yard-long beans, lime, and tomatoes displayed on a wooden background.

Step 2: Pound the chilies and garlic until they are slightly broken down.Top-down view of crushed garlic and red chili peppers in a clay mortar.

Step 3: Add the yard long beans and lightly pound them, just enough to release their juice. Don’t break them completely, aim for a fresh crunch, not a mushy texture.Overhead view of clay mortar with sliced yard-long beans, and crushed garlic and chilies.

Step 4: Add fish sauce, roasted peanuts and palm sugar. Pound and mix the ingredients. If needed, use a spoon to help you, I use a wooden spoon or a plastic rice spoon.Overhead view of clay mortar with yard-long beans, roasted peanuts, and crushed garlic and chilies. To the side is a dish with shredded papaya and a lime wedge.

Step 5: Squeeze fresh lime juice into the mortar and toss in the lime peels. Then, add the shredded green papaya along with the tomato slices. If you’re using dried mini shrimp, add those too. Pound and stir to ensure all the papaya slices have soaked up the salad dressing. Serve immediately and enjoy!Overhead view of a clay mortar with som tum Thai in it.

How to peel and shred papaya

You’ll need a sharp knife and a basic vegetable peeler for peeling and shredding a papaya the traditional way.

1. Start by using the vegetable peeler to strip away the skin. It should peel off without much effort. Then, take your knife and trim away the tougher parts at both ends of the papaya, or at one side if you’re not shredding it completely.

Peeler papaya on a cutting board.

2. Once your papaya is peeled, it’s time to shred. Make gentle, shallow cuts into the papaya with your knife, almost like you’re scoring it. Keep the knife in your dominant hand and rotate the papaya with your other hand, maintaining a firm grip.

Chopping green papaya with a knife.

3. After scoring, slice off the outer layer to create thin shreds of green papaya. These shreds are perfect for soaking up all the flavorful dressings and mix-ins. Alternatively, you can use a julienne peeler, but using a knife is the traditional way.

Shredding green papaya with a knife.

If you don’t need a whole papaya, just cut it in half and store the unused half in your fridge. Or, shred the whole thing and keep any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge. For more info, head over to my guide on how to shred papaya.

Serving ideas

In Isan, som tum Thai is typically served alongside Thai sticky rice (or jasmine rice) and grilled meats like Thai chicken wings and moo yang. Another typical side is kai tod (Thai fried chicken) and other salads like this pork larb recipe.

Papaya salad is amazing on its own too, perfect for a refreshing lunch or dinner.

Storage tips

Papaya salad is best when eaten fresh. If you store it, the papaya shreds will lose their crunch as they’ll soak up the dressing. It’s okay to keep it in the fridge for a few hours in a sealed container if needed.

For just the shredded papaya, feel free to prep it in advance. Tuck it away in a sealed container in your fridge, and it’ll stay good for up to two weeks.

Frequently asked questions

Is papaya salad healthy?

Papaya salad is widely regarded as a healthy dish due to its low calorie content and high nutritional value. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from fresh ingredients like unripe papaya, tomatoes, and green beans.

What does green papaya salad taste like?

Green papaya salad has a balanced blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors. The unripe papaya’s crisp and slightly sweet crunch forms the base, while a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and palm sugar adds a tangy and savory depth. Chilies introduce a spicy kick, and vegetables add a refreshing note.

Can I make this in advance?

For the best texture and flavor, I advise mixing the dressing with the other ingredients close to serving time. The papaya and vegetables can be sliced beforehand and kept refrigerated, but dressing them too early might cause the salad to become soggy.

Is green papaya salad vegetarian?

Green papaya salad can be vegetarian with a few adjustments. Traditionally, the dressing includes fish sauce, which is not vegetarian. However, you can substitute with a vegetarian fish sauce alternatively. Make sure there is no dried shrimp and shrimp paste used.

Authentic Thai salad recipes

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Som Tum Thai Recipe (Green Papaya Salad)

Som tum Thai, green papaya salad, with peanuts and tomatoes.
This is a quick and easy authentic som tum Thai recipe for green papaya salad with a tasty dressing, juicy tomatoes, and crisp yard long beans.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Salad
Serving Size 2

Ingredients

  • 2 chilies to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 yard long beans cut into 1-inch sizes
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 3/4 lime
  • 3 cups green papaya shredded
  • 3 small tomatoes

Instructions

  • Begin by peeling the papaya and grating it into thin slices. Cut the limes and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Chop the yard long beans into 1-inch sized pieces.
  • Pound the chilies and garlic until they are slightly broken down.
  • Add the yard long beans and lightly pound them, just enough to release their juice. Don’t break them completely, aim for a fresh crunch, not a mushy texture.
  • Add fish sauce, roasted peanuts and palm sugar. Pound and mix the ingredients. If needed, use a spoon to help you, I use a wooden spoon or a plastic rice spoon.
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice into the mortar and toss in the lime peels. Then, add the shredded green papaya along with the tomato slices. If you’re using dried mini shrimp, add those too. Pound and stir to ensure all the papaya slices have soaked up the salad dressing. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • For a vegetarian version, use a vegetarian fish sauce alternative.
  • Adjust the amount of chilies to your spice-level.

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