Shred Green Papaya For Som Tam Thai With An Easy Hack

Som Tam Thai
Som Tam Thai - hlphoto/Shutterstock

If you're looking for a light, refreshing dish, you can't go wrong with som tam Thai. Also known as Thai green papaya salad, this Southeast Asian dish offers a perfect balance of sweetness, savoriness, tanginess, spiciness, and umami that'll both awaken and satiate your taste buds. Its use of fresh ingredients also creates a play of textures that's enjoyable to the palate.

One of them is green papaya. Just as there's a proper way to slice papayas, they must also be shredded properly so the pieces come out in the right proportions. Get them too thick, and your salad ends up chewy and fibrous. Shred them too much, and the papaya strips get logged and soggy with dressing. Avoid either scenario by peeling the fruit first and using a sharp knife to shred its flesh. A grater may seem more practical, but it yields too-thin slivers that don't have that satisfying crunch.

First, remove half of the papaya's peel with a vegetable peeler. Keeping the other half intact gives you something to grip when you start shredding the fruit. With the unpeeled half of the green papaya flush against your palm, use the knife to make parallel vertical cuts that are about ⅛ to ¼-inch deep into its flesh. Keep the cuts around ⅛ of an inch apart. Once the flesh is covered with incisions, place the knife blade at a 90-degree angle against the papaya and shave it off in strips. Repeat the steps until you get the amount you need.

Read more: 30 Healthy Snack Ideas That Won't Ruin Your Diet

Making Som Tam Thai Requires Pounding The Ingredients

Shredded green papaya
Shredded green papaya - teonataranu9/Shutterstock

Aside from getting the strips of shredded papaya at just the right thickness, you also need to "bruise" them. This is done by pounding the fruit, as well other ingredients, with a wooden mortar and pestle. This step is indicated in the name of the dish: som means "sour" in Thailand's Isaan dialect while tam means "to pound." Pounding the salad ingredients brings out their respective flavors and aromas, and their softened texture allows them to absorb more of the dressing. Since green papaya is unripe and, therefore, quite firm, this step makes its strips easier (and tastier) to eat without losing their crunch.

The first ingredients to pound are the aromatics — garlic and chiles — until they achieve a paste-like texture. Follow with palm sugar, using circular motions to dissolve it into the paste. Next to be processed are the vegetables and the peanuts. Our recipe uses julienned carrots while traditional ones use the equally crunchy long beans and cherry tomatoes. Pound everything until the veggies are lightly bruised and the tomatoes are partially juiced. Add in the lime juice and fish sauce gradually, using the mortar to spread them throughout, and taste as you go for the right balance of flavor.

Finally, put in the green papaya strips. Lightly pound them while simultaneously tossing the salad so the ingredients get evenly coated with the dressing. Serve it as soon as you're done, and enjoy one of Thailand's classic dishes.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.