Thai FoodFrom Street Food to Fine Dining: Thai Papaya Salad

From Street Food to Fine Dining: Thai Papaya Salad

Som Tam, or Thai papaya salad, is a well-loved meal that has achieved international renown for its distinctive blend of spicy, sour, and sweet ingredients. This salad is a tasty combination of green papaya, tomatoes, garlic, chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar.

Although its exact birthplace is unknown, papaya salad is widely accepted as having been developed in the Isaan region of northeastern Thailand. Ingredients were historically mashed into a pulp using a big mortar and pestle. Papaya and other vegetables used to be shredded by hand, but these days most people use a food processor or grater.

Green papaya, the main ingredient, has a crunchy texture and a neutral taste that can absorb various flavors because it is selected before it ripens. Vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium are all plentiful in it. Tomatoes are a popular addition to the salad because their juiciness and sweetness counteract the salad’s spiciness and acidity.

Papaya salad dressing commonly consists of fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar. The salty umami flavor of fish sauce is fundamental to Thai cooking. The acidity of lime juice with the sweetness of palm sugar make for a delicious combination. A spicy kick comes from garlic and chiles added to the dressing.

Papaya salad is prepared in a certain style that sets it apart from other salads. Sticky rice and raw veggies like cabbage or long beans are typical partners for this dish. Sticky rice is used to scoop up a serving of the salad, and the raw veggies are used to clear the palate in between bites.

Papaya salad can be purchased from street sellers, markets, and restaurants all around Thailand. It’s become increasingly common on the menus of eateries outside of Thailand.

Papaya salad is not only a tasty option, but also a nutritious one. The green papaya is high in fiber and vitamins while being low in calories and fat. Also, if you skip the fish sauce, this salad is suitable for vegans.

All things considered, you should definitely try Thai papaya salad. Its novel blend of flavors and textures is likely to please your palate whether you prepare it at home or order it out.

Recipe for papaya salad:


  • 1 small green papaya (peeled and shredded)
  • 1-2 small tomatoes (cut into wedges)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2-3 Thai bird chilies (minced)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons of palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Handful of roasted peanuts (chopped)
  • Optional: long beans, shredded carrot, cabbage
Papaya mixture and toss until the ingredients are well-coated


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded green papaya, tomatoes, garlic, and chilies.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  3. Pour the dressing over the papaya mixture and toss until the ingredients are well-coated.
  4. Add long beans, shredded carrot, or cabbage (if using) and toss again.
  5. Transfer the salad to a serving plate and top with chopped roasted peanuts.
  6. Serve with sticky rice and raw vegetables on the side.

Enjoy your delicious Thai papaya salad!

tips to help you make the best green papaya salad:

  1. Choose the right green papaya: Look for green papayas that are firm and unripe. The flesh should be white and crisp. Avoid papayas that are too ripe, as they will be soft and sweet.
  2. Shred the papaya properly: Use a julienne peeler or a sharp knife to shred the papaya into thin, uniform strips. You can also use a food processor with a shredding blade.
  3. Balance the flavors: The dressing for green papaya salad should be a balance of sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Use lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce, and chili peppers to achieve this balance. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  4. Add texture: Along with the shredded papaya, you can add other ingredients to add texture and flavor to the salad, such as cherry tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and dried shrimp.
  5. Toss well: To ensure that all the flavors and ingredients are evenly distributed, toss the salad well. Use your hands to gently mix the salad, making sure that all the ingredients are coated with the dressing.
  6. Serve immediately: Green papaya salad is best served immediately after it is made. If you need to prepare it ahead of time, keep the dressing separate from the shredded papaya and toss the salad just before serving.

By following these tips, you can make a delicious and authentic green papaya salad that is sure to impress your guests. Enjoy!

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