Discover Thailand’s Best Som Tam Recipe: Thai Green Papaya Salad!

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Sawasdee ka! I'm Sirinya, and today, I want to share with you my absolute favorite Thai dish: som tam, or Thai green papaya salad. This mouthwatering salad is a staple in Thailand, and you can find it on menus all over the country. However, not all som tam recipes are created equal. Some can be too spicy or too sweet, while others may be lacking in flavor. That's why I've made it a personal mission to create the perfect som tam recipe and share it with the world!

First, let me tell you a little bit about som tam. This salad is a perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. The traditional recipe calls for green papaya, cherry tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers, dried shrimp, and peanuts, all tossed in a tangy dressing made from fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar. However, there are many variations of som tam that incorporate different ingredients, such as long beans, carrots, or even fruit like mango or pineapple.

Now, let's get to the good stuff – my recipe for the best som tam you will ever taste. I've made a few adjustments to the traditional recipe to make it even more flavorful and delicious. Don't worry, it's not too difficult to make at home, and the results are definitely worth it. Are you ready to discover Thailand's best som tam recipe? Let's get started!

Ingredients for Thai green papaya salad

Som tam, or Thai green papaya salad, is a traditional dish from Thailand that has gained immense popularity worldwide due to its unique blend of flavors, textures, and health benefits. It is a refreshing, spicy, and tangy salad that is prepared using shredded unripe papaya and a variety of other ingredients. The following are the main ingredients needed to make the perfect som tam:

  • 1 unripe green papaya, peeled and shredded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 bird's eye chili, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp
  • 1-2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3-4 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1-2 carrots, julienned
  • 1-2 tbsp tamarind pulp (optional)

These ingredients can be found at any Asian grocery store or online. Make sure to use fresh and high-quality ingredients to get the best flavor and nutritional value.

Step-by-step instructions

Now that you have gathered all the necessary ingredients, it’s time to put them together to make the perfect som tam. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Start by grating the unripe green papaya using a mandolin or a grater. Make sure to remove the skin and seeds before grating to get a fine texture.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and bird's eye chili into a coarse paste. You can adjust the amount of chili depending on your spice level preference.
  3. Add the peanuts and dry shrimp to the mortar and pound them gently until they are slightly crushed. Pounding them too hard can release too much oil and ruin the texture.
  4. Add the palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and tamarind pulp (if using), and mix them together using a spoon or spatula.
  5. Add the grated papaya, sliced tomatoes, and julienned carrots to the mortar and mix them with the dressing using a spoon or pestle. You can also use your hands to mix everything together gently.
  6. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more lime juice, fish sauce, or sugar. You can also add more chili if you want it spicier.
  7. Serve the som tam in a bowl, garnished with extra peanuts, dry shrimp, and a lime wedge.

Tips for making the perfect som tam

Although som tam is a simple dish to make, there are a few tips and tricks that can elevate the flavor and texture to the next level. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use fresh and high-quality ingredients. Fresh papayas, ripe tomatoes, and crunchy carrots can make all the difference in the final dish.
  • Make sure to remove the skin and seeds of the papaya before grating to get a fine texture and avoid bitterness.
  • Use a mortar and pestle to crush the garlic, chili, and peanuts for a better texture and flavor.
  • Don't over-pound the peanuts and dry shrimp to avoid releasing too much oil and making the salad too greasy.
  • Adjust the seasoning to your liking by adding more lime juice, fish sauce, or sugar. Each person's preference for sweetness, sourness, and saltiness can differ.
  • Try adding other ingredients such as green beans, snake beans, or shredded carrots to give the salad more depth and crunch.
  • Serve the som tam with sticky rice, grilled chicken, or fish for a complete Thai meal experience.

Variations of som tam recipe

Som tam is a versatile dish that can be customized to fit different dietary preferences and taste buds. Here are some variations of the classic som tam recipe that you can try:

  • Vegan som tam: Instead of using fish sauce and dried shrimp, use soy sauce and fried tofu for a vegan-friendly option.
  • Fruit som tam: Replace the green papaya with other fruits such as mango, pineapple, or cucumber for a refreshing and tropical twist.
  • Southern-style som tam: Add salted egg, pickled crab, and fermented fish sauce to the recipe to get a richer and funkier flavor profile.
  • Crab som tam: Add fresh crab meat or crab claws to the salad for a seafood lover's version of the dish.

Serving suggestions

Som tam is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or main course depending on the portion size and accompaniments. Here are some serving suggestions to try:

  • Serve the som tam in a bowl as a main course with sticky rice and grilled chicken or fish.
  • Serve the som tam as a side dish to complement other Thai dishes such as pad thai, green curry, or tom yum soup.
  • Serve the som tam as an appetizer in small portions with crispy pork rinds or shrimp crackers.
  • Serve the som tam as a healthy and low-calorie snack for a mid-day or post-workout boost.

Health benefits of Thai green papaya salad

Som tam not only tastes great but also has many health benefits due to its fresh ingredients and low-calorie count. Here are some of the health benefits of Thai green papaya salad:

  • Papaya is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and fiber, which can boost the immune system, aid digestion, and protect against chronic diseases.
  • Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which can increase metabolism, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health.
  • Peanuts and dried shrimp are rich in protein and healthy fats, which can provide energy and help build and repair tissues.
  • Lime juice and tamarind pulp are rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals and protect against cancer and aging.
  • Fish sauce is a good source of minerals such as iodine and magnesium, which can support thyroid function and improve bone health.


Som tam is a delicious and healthy Thai green papaya salad that is easy to make and versatile enough to suit different tastes and preferences. By following the step-by-step instructions and tips outlined in this article, you can make the perfect som tam at home and impress your friends and family with your culinary skills. Don't be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and variations to find your own favorite version of this iconic dish.

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