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Som Tum Recipe (Thai Papaya Salad)

Som Tum recipe, thai papaya salad,

Our Thai som tum recipe is a traditional dish that you’ll love trying! It’s a papaya salad with a unique blend of flavors, textures, and spices. The main ingredients are shredded green papaya, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, peanuts or cashews, chilies, and tomatoes. This combination creates an amazing explosion of flavor.

The crunchy texture of the papaya is complemented by the sweetness of the tomatoes and tanginess of the lime juice. The savory fish sauce really brings out all the different flavors in this dish. Chilies can be added for more heat if desired.

The preparation process for this Thai som tum recipe is fairly simple but requires some skill to get it just right. All you need to do is mix together all your chosen ingredients in a mortar and pestle then serve it up on a plate or bowl with some sticky rice or other accompaniments such as grilled chicken or crab meat on top.

Thai som tum has become increasingly popular over recent years due to its delicious taste and attractive presentation – not to mention how easy it is to make at home! Even if you don’t have access to all the necessary ingredients in your local area, there are plenty of ready-made versions available online which still offer great flavor and texture combinations. So why not give this tasty dish a try today?

Origins and History

You can trace the origins of this som tum recipe all the way back to the ancient city-states of Southeast Asia, where it was enjoyed by locals and travelers alike. It’s believed to have originated in what’s now Thailand, with a unique combination of flavors that no other country could replicate.

From there, som tum spread throughout the region, becoming a staple dish in many countries including Laos and Cambodia.

The original version of som tum was made from unripe papaya which was pounded with pestle and mortar before being mixed with herbs, spices, chilies, lime juice, and fish sauce. Over time, different ingredients were added depending on local preferences or availability, such as peanuts or shrimp paste. This has resulted in countless variations of this classic salad, which are unique to each culture.

Today, som tum is enjoyed across Southeast Asia but is still especially popular in Thailand where it remains one of their most beloved dishes. The simple combination of crunchy green papaya combined with tart lime juice and spicy chilies has become an iconic flavor profile that captures the essence of Thai cuisine for many people around the world.

Som tum is also one of those dishes that bring people together – whether at home or in restaurants – as its vibrant colors and tantalizing smells make it a favorite among all ages. It’s an important part of everyday life for many Thais who enjoy it as a snack or side dish during meals throughout the day – making it an integral part of Thai culture and cuisine!

Traditional and Regional Variations of the Som Tum Recipe

From its roots in Thailand, Som Tum has spread to many Southeast Asian countries, each adapting the dish to their own unique flavors and ingredients.

In Cambodia, it’s called bok l’hong and includes additional herbs such as lemongrass, mint leaves, and kaffir lime leaves.

Laotian som tum utilizes garlic, green papaya, fermented fish sauce, and chilies.

The Burmese version of the dish adds shredded banana blossom or ginger root to theirs.

Vietnamese som tum includes taro stems in addition to the usual ingredients.

Lastly, Malaysian som tum often includes pineapple chunks for a sweet twist on a beloved classic.

All these variations of the traditional Som Tum showcase the creativity of Southeast Asian chefs who’ve adapted this dish with local spices and specialties while maintaining its original essence – spicy yet refreshing!

Although regional variations are popular throughout Southeast Asia, some versions remain true to the Thai style with just roasted peanuts added for texture.

No matter how it’s served up though, Som Tum will be sure to tantalize taste buds all around!

How to Choose the Best Papaya

When choosing the right papaya for this Som Tum recipe, you’ll want to look for a fruit that’s firm yet ripe enough to be slightly sweet and soft. Start by looking for a papaya with vibrant yellow or orange-red skin, free from any spots or bruises. Tap it lightly; if it gives slightly, then it’s ripe. Avoid those that are overly soft or have blemishes as they won’t give you the texture and flavor you’re looking for in your Som Tum.

Next, check its size. Most large-sized papayas are quite fibrous which can make them hard to chew. Look for a smaller sized fruit instead. Make sure it’s also heavy since this usually indicates that the flesh inside is full of juicy goodness – perfect for Som Tum! Also check its smell; if it has an appealing scent like honeydew melon or pineapple then chances are that this is the one you want!

When preparing your papaya, remember not to peel off all the green parts completely as these contain essential enzymes and other nutrients that add more flavor and complexity to your dish. Don’t forget to cut away any remaining seeds before shredding into strips ready for cooking!

Choosing the right papaya is key when making a delicious Thai Som Tum dish – so take your time when selecting one at the market and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what makes the best choice! With some patience and knowledge of what qualities make up an ideal Papaya, you can rest assured that your homemade Som Tum will be bursting with flavor.

Tips for Preparing Som Tum

Once you’ve chosen the perfect papaya, it’s time to start preparing for your Som Tum dish! Start by slicing the green papaya into thin strips. A mandoline slicer works best for this job.

Once you have your strips, place them in a bowl and sprinkle a little salt over them. This will help soften the papaya, making it more palatable when eaten raw. You can also add other vegetables like carrots or beansprouts if you’d like.

To make the dressing for your Som Tum, mix together fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chilli, and sugar in a separate bowl until fully combined. Add some water too if needed to reach the desired consistency. Taste as you go along, adding extra ingredients depending on how spicy or sweet you want it to be.

Now comes one of the most important steps: pounding the papaya with a pestle and mortar until it is tenderized but still crunchy. Pound gently – don’t overdo it or else you’ll end up with mushy pieces!

Once done, combine all salad ingredients together and dress with the prepared dressing just before serving – this helps keep everything fresh and crispy!

Som Tum is an incredibly versatile dish that can be customized to your own tastes – feel free to experiment with different types of vegetables and dressings until you find what works best for you! Enjoy your tasty creation and enjoy its unique combination of flavors!

Pairing Som Tum with Other Dishes

You can enjoy Som Tum as a stand-alone dish, or pair it with other Thai dishes to create an unforgettable meal. The most common accompaniments are sticky rice or khao niao and grilled meats like chicken, pork, beef, duck, or fish. Som Tum is spicy, so pairing it with the milder flavors of sticky rice helps to balance out the meal.

Other side dishes such as fried eggs and spring rolls also go well with this traditional street food.

If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, you can serve Som Tum alongside stir-fried dishes like pad see ew, pad thai, or kua gai. These noodle-based dishes offer a variety of textures and flavors that pair perfectly with the crunchy papaya salad.

For larger gatherings, you can even set up a Thai buffet featuring different types of Som Tum along with various stir fry and meat dishes.

To keep things interesting when serving Som Tum at home, consider trying different dipping sauces such as Nam Jim Jaew – made from chilies and lime juice – or Nam Prik Num – made from roasted green chilies and garlic paste – to give your meal extra flavor. Additionally, if you love spice, then adding chili flakes on top of your dish is sure to kick things up a notch!

No matter how you choose to eat it, Som Tum is an essential part of any Thai dining experience. Whether served alone for lunch or accompanied by other delicious dishes for dinner, its unique combination of sweet and sour flavors will be sure to tantalize your taste buds!

Serving and Presentation Methods

Serving Som Tum is as much about presentation as it is about flavor, so make sure to create a beautiful dish that will wow your guests!

Traditionally, Som Tum is served in a large bowl or platter. Depending on the number of people dining, you can either use one large bowl or multiple individual plates. As Som Tum often contains a lot of ingredients and flavors, it’s important to arrange them neatly for visual appeal.

To do this, start with lining the edges of the plate with raw vegetables like carrots and bean sprouts. Then, add the shredded green papaya at the center of the plate before topping it off with crushed peanuts and other garnishes. Finally, drizzle some lime juice or fish sauce over everything to enhance its flavor and aroma.

It’s also important to choose the right utensils when serving Som Tum. Forks are usually not used since they don’t work well with sticky ingredients like tamarind paste and palm sugar. Instead, chopsticks or spoons are preferred for mixing all of these different components together while eating. This ensures that each bite contains every ingredient in perfect balance!

When done properly, a delicious plate of Som Tum can be enjoyed by everyone from kids to adults alike – making it an excellent choice for any occasion!

Cultural Significance of Som Tum

Beyond just the flavors and presentation, Som Tum has a special cultural significance in Thai cuisine. It’s a dish that spans generations, with each region of Thailand having its own version of the green papaya salad. Eating Som Tum symbolizes communal unity, as it’s traditionally shared among friends and family. This allows people to come together for meals that aren’t only delicious but also meaningful.

In addition to being an expression of social connection, Som Tum is also widely used in religious ceremonies throughout Southeast Asia. The ingredients used to make this green papaya salad are believed to represent different elements from nature: sourness for the rain, sweetness for sunshine, saltiness for earth, and spiciness or bitterness for wind. Thus it serves as a symbolic reminder of man’s connection with nature and his fellow man.

Som Tum is also believed to have medicinal properties in many countries outside of Thailand. For instance, some cultures believe that eating it can help relieve digestive problems such as indigestion or stomach pain due to its high content of vitamin C and enzymes found in green papaya. Additionally, its combination of sweet-sour-spicy flavors can act as a natural appetite stimulant, which helps promote better overall health and wellness.

Finally, Som Tum has become an iconic dish representing Thai cuisine around the world; this has helped spread awareness about other traditional foods from Thailand such as Pad Thai noodles or Tom Yum soup. This increased recognition has enabled more people worldwide to experience the unique flavors associated with authentic Thai food – all thanks to this beloved green papaya salad!

How to make Som Tum Thai (Thai Papaya Salad)

Som Tum, also known as Thai Papaya Salad, is a vibrant and refreshing dish from Thailand. It features shredded green papaya, a medley of herbs and spices, and a tangy dressing. Originating from the northeastern region of Thailand, Som Tum has become a popular staple of Thai cuisine. Its bold flavors and crunchy texture make it a beloved dish that is enjoyed both in Thailand and internationally. Som Tum represents the rich culinary heritage of Thailand and is a delightful combination of sweet, sour, and spicy elements.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Asian, Thai
Servings 4
Calories 200 kcal


  • Cutting board A sturdy cutting board will be helpful for slicing and preparing the ingredients.
  • Knife A sharp knife will be essential for cutting and chopping the papaya, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Vegetable peeler You will need a peeler to peel the skin off the green papaya.
  • Grater or mandoline slicer A grater or mandoline slicer can be used to shred or julienne the green papaya. This will help achieve the desired texture for the salad.
  • Mixing bowl A large mixing bowl is needed to toss and combine the ingredients together.
  • Small bowl A small bowl is required to prepare the dressing by mixing the fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar.
  • Mortar and pestle (optional) Traditionally, Som Tum is made by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. While it is optional, using a mortar and pestle can enhance the flavors and textures of the salad.
  • Tongs or salad servers These are useful for tossing and mixing the salad ingredients together.
  • Serving plate or bowl You'll need a plate or bowl to present and serve the Som Tum Thai.


  • 1 green papaya (medium-sized), shredded
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Thai chilies, finely chopped (adjust according to your spice tolerance)
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp, coarsely ground (optional)
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup long beans or green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces


  • Peel the green papaya and cut it in half. Remove the seeds and grate or julienne the flesh. Place the shredded papaya in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the minced garlic, chopped Thai chilies, and dried shrimp (if using) to the bowl with the papaya.
  • In a separate small bowl, prepare the dressing by combining fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar. Stir well until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour the dressing over the papaya mixture in the large bowl. Use a pair of tongs or clean hands to toss and massage the ingredients together. This will help the flavors to blend and the papaya to soften slightly.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes and long beans or green beans to the bowl. Toss everything together until well combined.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. You can add more fish sauce for saltiness, lime juice for acidity, or sugar for sweetness.
  • Transfer the salad to a serving plate or bowl. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts over the top.


  1. Green papaya: Look for unripe green papayas in your local Asian grocery store or specialty markets. They should be firm and have a green skin. If you can’t find green papayas, you can substitute it with green mangoes for a similar texture and flavor.
  2. Adjusting spice level: Thai chilies can be quite spicy. Adjust the amount according to your preference and tolerance for heat. You can start with a smaller quantity and add more if desired. Alternatively, you can remove the seeds from the chilies to reduce the spiciness.
  3. Dried shrimp: The addition of dried shrimp is optional but traditional in Thai papaya salad. It adds a unique umami flavor. If you prefer a vegetarian version, you can omit the dried shrimp or substitute it with a vegetarian alternative like soy granules or chopped tofu.
  4. Fish sauce: Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine, providing a salty and savory flavor. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan version, you can substitute fish sauce with soy sauce or a vegan fish sauce alternative.
  5. Adjusting the dressing: Taste the dressing before adding it to the salad and adjust the flavors to your liking. Add more lime juice for extra tanginess, more fish sauce for saltiness, or more sugar for sweetness. The balance of flavors can vary based on personal preferences.
  6. Texture variations: You can customize the texture of your papaya salad by adjusting the shredding or julienning of the papaya. For a more crunchy texture, shred it coarsely. For a softer texture, shred it finer.
  7. Serving suggestion: Som Tum Thai is often enjoyed as a side dish or served with sticky rice. It pairs well with grilled meats, seafood, or other Thai dishes.
Remember to have fun and adjust the recipe to suit your taste preferences. Enjoy the vibrant flavors of Som Tum Thai!
Keyword salad, side dish, snack, Spicy


  1. Green papaya: An unripe papaya with a firm texture and a green skin. It is the main ingredient in Som Tum Thai and provides a crisp and slightly sweet element to the salad.
  2. Thai chilies: Small, hot chili peppers commonly used in Thai cuisine. They add spiciness and a distinct flavor to the dish.
  3. Dried shrimp: Small shrimp that have been dried, providing a savory umami flavor to the salad. They can be ground or crushed before adding to the dish.
  4. Fish sauce: A condiment made from fermented fish that adds a salty and savory flavor to the salad. It is a common ingredient in Thai cuisine and provides depth of taste.
  5. Lime juice: The juice extracted from fresh limes. It adds a tangy and refreshing element to the dressing of the salad.
  6. Palm sugar: A type of sugar made from the sap of palm trees. It has a rich, caramel-like flavor and is used to balance the flavors in the dressing by adding a touch of sweetness.
  7. Cherry tomatoes: Small, bite-sized tomatoes that are typically sweet and juicy. They add color, texture, and a burst of freshness to the salad.
  8. Long beans/Green beans: These are long, slender beans that are often used in Thai cuisine. They provide a crisp and slightly crunchy texture to the salad.
  9. Mortar and pestle: A set of tools used for grinding and crushing ingredients. In the context of Som Tum Thai, a mortar and pestle can be used to pound the ingredients together, releasing their flavors and textures.

These are just a few key ingredients and terms that you may encounter when making or enjoying Som Tum Thai. Exploring these flavors and ingredients will enhance your understanding and appreciation of this delicious Thai dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I adjust the spiciness level of this Som Tum recipe?

Absolutely! The spiciness level can be adjusted according to your preference. You can add fewer or more Thai chilies to decrease or increase the heat. You can also remove the seeds from the chilies for a milder flavor.

Can I make Som Tum in advance?

While it is best to enjoy Som Tum Thai fresh, you can prepare some components in advance. You can shred the papaya and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, it’s recommended to mix the salad and add the dressing just before serving to maintain the desired texture and freshness.

Can I make this Som Tum recipe vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, you can make a vegetarian or vegan version of Som Tum Thai. Omit the dried shrimp and use a vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce as a substitute for the fish sauce. Customize the recipe to suit your dietary preferences and restrictions.

Can I substitute green papaya with something else?

If you can’t find green papaya, you can use green mango as a substitute. It provides a similar crunchy texture and tangy flavor. Alternatively, you can experiment with other crisp vegetables like cucumber or jicama.

Can I store leftovers of Som Tum?

Som Tum Thai is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a day. However, note that the texture may soften and the flavors may meld together. It’s recommended to consume the salad as soon as possible for the best taste and texture.

Can I customize the ingredients in a Som Tum recipe?

Absolutely! Som Tum Thai is a versatile dish, and you can customize it to your liking. You can add other vegetables like shredded carrots, bell peppers, or herbs like Thai basil or mint. You can also adjust the dressing by adding more lime juice, fish sauce, or palm sugar based on your taste preferences.

What does Som Tum mean in Thai?

Som (Thai: ส้ม) which is north-eastern Thai word means sour taste and Tum (Thai: ตำ) means pounding with pestle to crush or break ingredients. Som tum is a distinctive-sour and spicy dish that is made by using a pestle and mortar to crush and mix all ingredients together.

Is this Som Tum recipe healthy?

Papaya Salad or named “Som Tum” in Thai, not only delicious in “Taste” but also a “Healthy Food” that provides high fiber but low in energy and fat. “Som Tum” which consists of vegetables and herbs that are beneficial to the immune system and anti-aging such as papaya, garlic, chili and beans.

These FAQs should help address some common questions about Som Tum Thai. Feel free to experiment and adapt the recipe to suit your own taste and dietary preferences. Enjoy the delicious flavors of this classic Thai salad!

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My name is Mint. I am a Thai girl who loves to cook and share my Thai food with everyone! Learn more about me here.

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