I am a huge fan of Thai food and one of my absolute favorite dishes is Thai Green Papaya Salad (known as Som Tam in Thai). It spicy, slightly sweet and tart – all in one fantastic little bite! Since papayas are a seasonal fruit, whenever summer rolls around - this dish is always on my menu. I especially enjoy it with grilled foods - it’s light, refreshing & very easy to prepare. Green papayas are also an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium.
My “Indianized” version of this famous Thai dish is always a big hit, especially when entertaining. I’m sure your family & friends will love it as much as mine do. Traditionally, this dish is on the spicy side but feel free to adjust the spice levels to suit your individual palate. By the way, feel free to use a food processor or mandolin to do all the work for you.
A green papaya is basically a young papaya that is edible but not fully ripe. Green papayas are available in most large grocery stores & supermarkets; you will easily find them in any Asian market.
INDIAN GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
3 cups of green papaya, shredded or julienned (cut into thin match sticks)
2 medium carrots, peeled & shredded or julienned
½ green bell pepper, julienned
½ red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp palm sugar (or you can use honey), to taste
½ tbsp tamarind concentrate (or tamarind paste or tamarind powder)
2-3 large garlic clove, finely minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled & finely minced
3-4 small green Thai chilies, slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
zest of 1 lime
pinch of ground cumin powder
pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed into pieces
freshly chopped cilantro leaves (or mint), for garnish
In a small mixing bowl, combine the lime juice and the soy sauce. Now add the tamarind & palm sugar (or honey), whisk together until both the sugar & tamarind are completely dissolved. Then add the garlic along with the ginger, green chilies, lime zest, ground cumin powder & red pepper flakes. Whisk to combine and set aside until needed. Alternatively, this could be done in a blender as well.
Now in a large mixing bowl, combine the julienned green papaya along with the carrots, green/red bell peppers & baby tomato halves. Season with salt & pepper, then add the dressing & toss gently to combine all the ingredients. Sprinkle with the peanuts & cilantro leaves for garnish. Serve chilled or at room temperature as part of any delicious meal.
You could add ¼ cup coconut milk, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, black sesame seeds, blanched haricot vert (tender young green beans), cucumbers, shallots, fresh pea shoots, Thai basil leaves or bean sprouts to the dish. You could even add some cooked baby shrimp to this recipe :-)
Substitute orange juice & orange zest in place of lime juice & lime zest for a slightly sweeter version.