Papaya Salad (Som Tum)


If you asked me what I could eat for the rest of my life, it would be this papaya salad, some street style roasted chicken and sticky rice. The classic version of this dish uses dried shrimp and fresh chilis, but my version called for dried chilis and fresh shrimp. Plump shrimp makes this salad more of a meal and the dried chilis add a nice subtle smokier flavor. Fresh chilis for this dish work, but it tends to get spicy too fast for some people. The dried chilis are typically less intense, but different brands vary in spiciness.  

Here's a couple gadgets to make your papaya shredding easier. I use the Kom Kom the most. First you peel an unripened papaya, trim the ends and shred the crispy flesh. You stop when you start to reach the fibrous core. I often times try to stand the papaya upright, trimmed end of papaya against a wooden cutting board and shredding using the cutting to anchor. Be careful of the papaya slipping and nicking your knuckles with the blade of the peeler/shredder. It gets a little messy but it is worth it. 

Kom Kom Miracle Zig Zag (Julienne Blade) Thai Multi Purpose Knife

Kiwi Pro Slicer

If unripened green papaya isn't readily available, you can sub this for shredded carrots and or boiled corn off the cob. Try to use fresh because the corn (not canned or frozen) otherwise it will get soggy and mushy in the mortar. This dish is all about freshness. The bruising of the vegetables allows the vegetables to take up all the delicious vinaigrette and seasoning. When you shred the papaya, you will see that you will have way more papaya than you need, so you will be making multiple rounds of this.  Shredded unseasoned/unbruised papaya can be kept in a ziploc baggy for 3-4 days.

This is the list to make a hearty salad for 2, or a side salad for 4 people. This salad is best mashed in small batches in the mortar. Overcrowding of the mortar actually makes the process of seasoning and smashing exponentially longer. I have a large mortar made of clay that I can pound all of the salad in, but I have outlined an option to pound the dressing in a small mortar and transition the dressing to a aluminum sheet pan for those of you who don't have the large clay mortar. 

Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

Prep Time 30 minutes | Cook Time 10 minutes

Serves 2-4

Printable Recipe

Ingredients Of Som Tam (Papaya Salad)

  • 1 1/2 cups Green raw papaya, shredded
  • 1/2 green beans, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 8 Cherry tomatoes (cut into halves)
  • 4-6 poached shrimp (cocktail shrimp is okay)
  • 1-2 dried red chillis
  • 1 Tbsp Palm sugar (or 1 Tbsp regular sugar)
  • 3 Tbsp Lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp Fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Ground peanuts, roasted, optional


1. Peel papaya, trim ends, and shred with Kom Kom (see above)

2. In a large mortar, crush garlic and dried chilis to release heat. Add 1 tbsp of palm sugar. Add 2 tbsp of fish sauce Pound to break up palm sugar. 

3. Add green beans and shredded papaya and pound a few times to bruise. Then add the halved tomatoes and poached shrimp. 

4. Squeeze lime in, toss thoruoghly to mix. 

5. Serve with chopped peanuts (optional)