Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Thai)

I was first introduced to making Papaya Salad by my friend Rahul during one of our Thai-themed cookouts where we watched a sweet auntie on Thai Food Cast demonstrate the step-by-step process.  Papaya salad is a popular Southeast Asian dish that has wonderful sweet, sour, salty, and spicy accents.  It is super easy to prepare and very healthy.  The salad is made of green papaya, which is essentially unripened papaya, and is often used in Southeast Asian dishes such as salads, stews, and curries.  There are three basic types of papaya salad:

  • Som Tam Thai, which has roasted peanuts mixed in it. (this recipe)
  • Som Tam Bu, which has pickled crabs pounded in it.
  • Som Tam Lao, which has the juice of pickled mud-fish in it.

You can find most of the ingredients you need at an Asian grocery store — including a mortar and pestle!  It may be a bit old-fashioned but it’s the best way to make an authentic Thai papaya salad.  For those in NYC, Bangkok Center Grocery is the ultimate one-stop shop for all your Thai cooking needs.  You can even find a special papaya shredder there, which will make this process significantly easier.

Papaya salad is traditionally served with sticky rice and Thai BBQ Chicken.

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Thai) from ThaiFoodCast

Yields: 2 servings


  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, chipped  (or more if you like a lot of heat!)
  • ¼ C roasted peanuts
  • ½ C grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ C green beans, cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • 2 T lime juice = 1 lime juiced
  • 2 T palm sugar (or honey)
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 2 C shredded green papaya
  • Optional: roasted peanuts for garnish


Prepare your ingredients.  If you don’t have a special papaya shredder, you can just chop your knife into the papaya to make a series of deep cuts (be careful of your fingers!) and then cut the papaya lengthwise to produce 2-3″ strips (watch the video for guidance).

Put the garlic and chili peppers in the mortar and smash it into small pieces with the pestle.

Add these ingredients individually to the mortar and pound it until it all mixes well together: peanuts, palm sugar (honey works too), lime juice, and fish sauce.  Add the tomatoes and green beans and bruise slightly with the pestle (I don’t like to overly pound these ingredients.)

Finally, add the shredded papaya and pound with the pestle while tossing with a large spoon to mix thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients.  Garnish with roasted peanuts and enjoy!  Also, try serving this with some spicy Thai BBQ Chicken.

One Response to “Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Thai)”
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  1. […] for Thai salad dishes include Tam (“pounded”) which is the technique used to make Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Thai), and Larb (“to mince meat”) which is used to prepare Chicken Larb (Larb […]

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