The Thai papaya salad known as Som Tam is loved all over Thailand but comes from Isan, a region in its' Northeast that's afflicted by both floods and drought. The cuisine here is resourceful and few ingredients are used to bracing effect.
The humble papaya salad has many versions. It is an adaptation of a Lao dish known as tam som, which refers to the pounding of sour ingredients such as raw mango or cucumber. For som tam, unripe raw papaya is lightly pounded using a mortar.
The crunch and snap of raw papaya is the main textural play but there are also firmer threads of carrot entwined in the mix and peanuts for more salt and bite. The dressing, spicy and sweet in turns, manages to be both cooling and invigorating.
Traditional versions add fish sauce or dried shrimp for added brine and umami, though Makery's Som Tam Papaya Salad Kit is vegan and leaves it out.
Some add raw eggplant and other versions include mud crabs sourced from Thai rice fields. Many use chili peppers at sweat and tear-inducing levels.
Here is Makery's full recipe. How would you make it your own?
1. Prepare the ingredients
Soak juliennes of carrot and raw papaya in ice water for 5 mins until they feel firmer. Meanwhile, wash the cherry tomatoes and cut into halves. Wash and finely chop the red chilli. Keep aside separately.
2. Make the dressing
In a mixing bowl, add jaggery powder, light soy sauce, and the juice of one lemon. Keep the second lemon aside to add to taste. Add the chopped red chilli and the garlic to the dressing mixture. Smoothen the dressing by mixing well. Refrigerate till ready to dress the salad later.
3. Dry the papaya & carrot
Drain the soaked papaya and carrot in a colander or sieve and use a paper towel to absorb excess water. Make sure they are dry.
4. Mix the salad
Place the carrot, papaya, cherry tomatoes, mint and half the peanuts into a large mixing bowl.
5. Pound & dress the salad
Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the mixing bowl and lightly pound the mixture 2 or 3 times. Add the remaining dressing and mix well.
6. Garnish and serve
Garnish with the remaining peanuts and add extra lemon juice to taste. Serve the salad chilled.