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In the last two years I have posted numerous recipes, talked about a lot of things in my life and ………….its been hard work. Talking about the recipes and the facts surrounding them is hard enough but the most difficult part is finding interesting enough to post !!! Its hard for me to talk about certain parts of my life…..I guess its remnants of my childhood . I was a shy child and had to work hard to improve my social skills …..to reach this point basically. There is also the fact that in my house , almost all the interesting incidents involve things that quite frankly should not be associated with food !!! A dilemma, would’nt you say ???

I think I have waxed lyrical about my fondness for thai food. V and I try new Thai restaurants often, by way of take out……….its just easier than dragging 3 kids there and hoping they’ll like the food and also and most important …that they behave !!! In one such instance we ordered and tasted SOM TAM or green papaya salad. It was love at first bite for both V and I.Shredded green papaya and chunks of tomatoes tossed in a dressing and garnished with peanuts. Sweet, spicy and tangy ……fresh and crisp…..I could go on !! Suffice to say, we loved it and have ordered it quite a number of times since then. Even my father got hooked onto it……..in fact its the only thai dish he eats !!!

I have always wanted to make but could never find a recipe that would give substitutes for the seafood component in the salad. I finally found a recipe and then next on the list was green papaya. I searched in the supermarkets near my place but could’nt find it. I have been buying my veggies from this great farmers market ….has veggies from all parts of the world. I found green papaya there and then waited for the right moment to make the salad. My cousin was here for work and was spending the weekend with us. I decided that it was the perfect time to make the salad and Penang Curry …….thats a post for a another day. I have to say the salad was half done even before the Penang curry was done !!!

According to my research , its widely believed that this salad originated in the Laos or Isan region in northeast Thailand.It is called TAM BAK HOUNG in Thai.” Tam “ means sour and “ bak houng” means pounded. It is generally made with papaya, chilli paste, fish sauce,garlic, lime, crabs and shrimp paste. Yard long beans and tomatoes are optional. It can also be made with cucumber and most common mango. I ,of course, omit the crabs and shrimp paste.I also don’t use yard long beans. The Laotian version is very spicy and sour but central Thai version is milder and has peanuts.I think the one I make is closer to that than the original. In vietnam its called Xap-Xap,which I think is cute, for the sound the scissors make when the vendor cuts fried beef jerky to top it.


2 Garlic Cloves, minced

½ tsp Salt

2 tsp Sugar

juice of 1 Lime

2 Green Chillies

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

2 cups shredded Green Papaya

2-3 Roma Tomatoes, cut in quarters

1 cup finely shredded cilantro

2 tbsp peanuts, skins removed and toasted

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and green chillies till the juices are just released.

    Combine the salt, sugar and lime juice till it dissolves.

    Add the soy sauce, garlic-chilli mixture and combine to make the dressing.

    Pour over the veggies and toss well.

    Garnish with toasted peanuts.


    Taste Test

    I love this salad. Its fresh and crisp with a sweet undertone but filled with tang and spice.The roasted peanuts add more crunch as the papaya is crunchy too. I served it with a Penang curry but V and I have made a meal of this several times. Now onto the substitutions…..I made a combination of Thai and Vietnamese versions. The vietnamese version uses vinegar instead of lime juice and there is no soy sauce. Also instead of pounding the garlic and green chillies, they just add garlic chopped and red chilli paste. I used rice wine vinegar , about a ¼ cup instead of lime juice as I had no limes !!! I also used 1 tbsp of sriracha paste instead of the chillies.I also used soy sauce as a substitute for fish sauce.

    As I said this salad is usually served with crab but there are other vegetarian options…I think a mix of papaya and mango would be nice. Also if you do not want to use tomatoes, shredded carrots would be nice too. It would not be original but it definitely would be tasty !!!