Monday, 9 September 2013

Posted by jinson on 12:12 No comments
Original Som Tam or Papaya Salad is a common dish and widely eaten food among people who speak Lao language in Laos and including Isan or North Eastern Thais. Isan or North Eastern Thai is one of the dialects of Lao language. Isan or North-Eastern Thailand is the biggest part of the country with one third of population, majority of people are farmers. Isan is a farm land and also is the driest part of the country so the growing season is only in rainy season. Their life is full of hardship so they become the biggest group of people migrate to Bangkok and other parts of the country, especially when Thailand started to change to be industrialized country 20-30 years ago. They brought their cultures: food, language and music with them. Comedies and music with Isan language have been popular on TV, at bars, restaurants, streets and etc. 

Som Tam becomes popular food where Isan people are and because of Som Tam is such a pleasant food with the tastes of spiciness, sourness, sweetness and saltiness so it is easy for local people to enjoy it too. The most important ingredient in Som Tam Isan is Pla-Ra or fermented fish which is the Isan rural staple food. Many Thai people who are not from Isan are not comfortable eating fermented fish and will adjust their Som Tam to suit their flavour for example Som Tam in Southern Thailand may have shrimp paste with it. Actually we have Som Tam from royal cuisine which original is from royal cookery, this Som Tam, the important ingredient of royal Som Tam is dry shrimp, always comes with Khao Man or Jasmine rice cooked with coconut milk, but this Som Tam is not that attractive compare with Som Tam Isan so people combine Som Tam Isan and Som Tam from royal cuisine to be Tam Thai or Som Tam Thai - remain dry shrimp but Pla-Ra..

Nowadays many restaurants sell Som Tam as their main menu; they create many different flavours and toppings, for example: papaya salad with salted eggs, crispy anchovy, grilled chicken, cockle (saltwater clams), cooked fresh shrimp etc. The most common and widely available are Som Tam Thai, Som Tam Thai with salted crabs and Som Tam Isan (with fermented fish).

This recipe is Tam Thai or Som Tam Thai, dry shrimp is one of the ingredients but if you don’t like or are allergy with shrimp you can skip this ingredient.

Tip : Fresh and firm green papaya will create crisp shredded papaya but sometimes the really fresh ones are not available then soak shredded papaya in really cold water until crispy.

Som Tum Thai
 *** Medium hot

Shredded papaya and carrot
2 cup              Shredded green papaya
½ cup             Shredded carrot
1/3 cup           Snake beans or green beans, cut in 1½ inch long, crash
10 - 12            Cherry tomatoes, cut half.
1/3cup            Salted roasted peanuts or cashew nuts
1/3cup            Dried shrimp
2                     Thai fresh chillies, crash (the spiciness is adjustable)
1 clove            Garlic, crash


1 cake                  Palm Sugar or ¼ cup of Sugar
¼ cup                   Water
3 tbsp                   Lime Juice (adjustable)
3 tbsp                   Fish Sauce (adjustable)


  1. Making the dressing - heat water and palm sugar or sugar in a pot until sugar is melted or boiled for 7 – 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lime juice and fish sauce, mix well.
  2. Combine shredded papaya, shredded carrot, snake beans or green beans, chillies, garlic, cherry tomatoes and dried shrimp in a mixing bowl. Add the dressing and mix well and add peanuts or cashew nuts. Serve with sticky rice and grilled or roasted chicken.

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