When comes to Thai food, how people describe it? I would just simply say sweet, sour, and spicy! Thai cuisine are full of flavours, good use of ingredients and always never too complicated.
If you ever travel to Thailand, for sure you know, ate or at least taste Som Tam, known as Green Papaya Salad – this dish is popular in most areas of Thailand, originated in the northeast of the Kingdom. It is a spicy salad made from shredded green and firm papaya, dressed with a sweet, sour, and spicy dressings.
Som Tam is assembled in a mortar in which the vegetables and papaya are slightly crushed together, a technique that helps release the flavours and juices. It is a beautifully unique and flavor-filled salad that make a great impression at your party, or family get-together.
This dish is a such simple stuff but big in flavors, that’s why I love this dish so much! There no hassles in preparing – you don’t even have to use your wok or frying pan, oil and switch the gas on.
Recently I went to a food festival exhibition, found a vendor sell Som Tam there, so took the video, see below. If you want to learn how to make Som Tam, you can learn from her, the process is really simple, easy to make, low-calorie, and very nutritious.
This version is Som Tam Thai, the slightly tart flavor of the green papaya combines well with the spice of red chilli pepper and the saltiness of shrimp paste and fish sauce, plus the sweetness of honey. It does not add fermented crab or fermented fish paste (plaa-raa) which is common in Issan (North of Thailand).
To help you get it right, here are the ingredients and the benefits of eating them:
- Green Papaya (shredded) – it has about 8 calories per 28 grammes. Papaya is a good source of Vitamins C, E, A and B and has excellent antioxidant properties. It has been shown to be helpful in the prevention of colon cancer, arthritis and to promote healing.
- Garlic – it is good for you, it is a powerful antioxidant and a natural antibiotic. It even has anti-fungal properties. It was even used as an antiseptic to treat injuries during the first world war. Garlic in the diet will lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and help ward off heart disease. A garlic clove is rich in A, B and C vitamins as well as minerals including selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
- Thai Chili – the Capsaicin in Chili’s heats the body and releases endorphins and stimulates nerve endings. With the body heated up it raises the pulse rate.
- Cherry tomatoes – in Som tam they bring with them the proven anti-oxidant properties which can cut the chance of prostate, lung and some other cancers and heart disease too. The tomato is one of the healthiest of all vegetables and should be included in all diets.
- Long green beans – they are a rich source of Vitamin C, A and K as well as magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin. The antioxidants in Green Beans help to prevent colon cancer and heart disease.
- Fish sauce – in itself is a wonder food because not only does it add flavour and taste good but it is good for you as well. It is rich in protein and has all the necessary amino acids along with B vitamins and essential beneficial nutrients.
- Lime juice – in the Som tam is not simple a flavour but an important health food in its own right. Well known for the treatment and prevention of scurvy it will also aid digestion, prevent constipation and piles. Lime juice is well-known to aid weight loss too.
- Peanuts – extremely rich in Vitamin E.
- Dried shrimps – they are rich in calcium for the bones and magnesium, which can help heart function and reduce cholesterol. The heart benefits include helping prevent high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
- Palm sugar – it has low “glycemic index”, which means that when you consume palm sugar, you will not experience a spike in your blood sugar levels. It has a high nutrition content and it contains Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin C. It also abundant in minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorous.
- Salt – to taste
1. Peel the green papaya and shred the papaya with a zigzag peeler.
2. Soak the papaya in water to remove the acid and make it crispy.
3. Crush the chili, garlic, long beans, dried shrimps and peanuts in a mortar.
4. Mix all the ingredients together with the pestle and spoon.
For vegetarians, this is the recipe I used to make for my veg friends: shred papaya, salt, Thai chili, peppers, palm sugar (or just sugar), lemon, peanuts (if you want), and tomatoes.