It was just a matter of time before we made a salad with green papaya, the quintessential som tam dish of Thai cuisine. In point of fact, Burma and Laos both lay claim to the meal known as som tam for the straightforward reason that it is traditionally considered to be a Laotian specialty.
In the region that runs from southern Burma to Vietnam, there is a group of peoples known as the Lao peoples. These peoples share cultural and linguistic features.
The shifting of borders throughout South Asia’s history has created a past that these peoples have often shared together.
This history brings them together. In modern times, this name more accurately describes the people who live in Laos; yet, certain communities, most notably in Thailand, continue to affirm this identity, which is comparable to that of the Thais in many respects.
To return to the salad that we are serving today, its components include a base of green papaya, Thai pepper, and a form of vinaigrette made of tamarind, peanuts, nam pla, and kaffir lime juice.
A fact about this cuisine that could come as a surprise to you is that it would not have been created if European merchants, in particular the Portuguese, had not settled in this part of the world. In point of fact, the earliest exchanges with Portuguese ships took place in the 16th century.
These ships brought with them goods from South America that would radically alter the cuisine of the region, such as peppers, papaya, peanuts, or even tomatoes. These goods were brought with them by the Portuguese.
Although it’s difficult to fathom, these things have never before been bought or used by anyone. Nevertheless, several of the recipes that are currently in use, such as our salad of the day, previously existed but with different components.
Each of the American elements had a corresponding component in the local cuisine. For instance, chili was substituted with an Indonesian long pepper, papaya was replaced with a local fruit that was comparable to mango, and so on.
- 1 green papaya, julienned
- 3 carrots, julienned
- 300 grams of small prawns
- 300 grams of cherry tomatoes
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 3 Thai red chillies, seeded and sliced
- 1 tbsp. of Nam Pla Squid Fish Sauce
- 4 tbsp. of combawa juice
- 3 tbsp grated palm sugar
- 1 tbsp. tamarind paste
- 45 grams of roasted peanuts
- 35 grams of Thai coriander
Place the garlic and chili in a mortar with a pinch of salt and pound until you obtain a smooth paste. Add the nam pla sauce, sugar, combawa juice, and tamarind paste and mix well.
In a salad bowl, arrange the papaya, carrots, prawns, peanuts, and coriander, and pour the sauce on top. Mix well, and serve chilled.