Original Thai Papaya Salad Pok Pok

If you have been to Thailand, you will most probably have tried the famous papaya salad, also called ‘som tum’ and ‘papaya pok pok’. If you haven’t travelled to Thailand, you will no doubt have heard about this popular Thai salad.

Papaya salad

We recently found green, unripe papaya at the market and instantly knew that lunch would be this refreshing, classic som tum! The papaya is traditionally pounded with a pestle and mortar, and this is where the term ‘pok pok’ comes from. Since we don’t have a big enough mortar, we use a regular mixing bowl which is a great alternative.


Green papaya has a very mild, almost bland taste, but the additional ingredients take this salad to the next level with upfront bold and spicy flavours.

As with all Thai food, it is important to find a balance between sweet, sour and salty flavours. Thai people compete to eat this salad as spicy as possible, and they love challenging ‘farang’(foreigners) to do it too. We don’t make this salad too fiery, but we do find that a minimum of one chili is required to keep it authentic. 

papaya salad on the beach
A papaya salad vendor on the beach in Koh Samui

Papaya salad originates from Isaan in the northeast of Thailand, but nowadays you can find it everywhere, from vendors who make it fresh on the beach to the streets in Bangkok and the hills in Chiang Mai. It is often eaten with barbecued sticky rice to soften the spiciness.

Variations of papaya salad

  • Som tum Thai is the version we are sharing here but we haven’t added dry shrimps.
  • Som tum poo is made with soft black crab and fermented fish sauce.
  • Som tum ba is also called jungle salad and plenty of additional ingredients with pickled or fermented bamboo shoots being the most important.

Where to find all ingredients

Green unripe papaya and palm sugar are difficult to find in Western Countries. Asian supermarkets usually have all the ingredients to make this salad, and you can find palm sugar on Amazon.

Related: Best mandoline slicers, manual vegetable peelers

Papaya salad

Thai Papaya Salad or Som Tum

The papaya is traditionally pounded with a pestle and mortar, and this is where the term ‘pok pok’ comes from.
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Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Appetisers & Starters, Salad, Side dishes
Cuisine Thai
Servings 8 people
Calories 84 kcal

EQUIPMENT (click pictures for details)

Mortar and pestle
Mandoline
Vegetable peeler

Ingredients
 
 

For the garnish

Instructions
 

  • Roast the unsalted peanuts in the oven at 160°C. Cool them and crush them roughly.
    crushing peanuts

Prepare the vegetables

  • Wash and peel all vegetables
    peel papaya
  • Cut the green papaya and the carrots to julienne.
    cut papaya to julienne
  • Cut the snake beans to 4-5 cm sticks and halve the tomatoes.
    cut all vegetables to julienne
  • Chop the garlic cloves and the Thai red chili birds.
  • Squeeze 3 limes and reserve the juice for the dressing, then cut another one into quarters for garnish.

Prepare the dressing

  • Pound the garlic, chilies and quartered lime in a bowl.
    pound chiliwith garlic and lemon
  • Add the lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce and the tamarind juice. Stir well with your spoon and adjust to taste.
    add palm sugar and other ingredients
  • Add the ⅓ of the julienned green papaya, the carrots and pound to bruise the vegetables into the dressing.
    add julienned papaya to sauce
  • Add the remaining green papaya, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts and mix well.
    Papaya salad
  • Serve the salad in a bowl and garnish with the white cabbage, cucumber and fresh coriander leaves.
    Papaya salad

Notes

  • Palm or coconut block sugar is the best for Asian recipes. Melt the sugar blocks with a small amount of water to make a thick syrup and store in the refrigerator.
  • The palm sugar has a lower glycaemic index and is considered healthier than sugar cane.
  • Tamarind is a remarkable ingredient, as sour as lemon and as sweet as dates. It is the fruit pod of a tree, native to Asia and northern Africa.

Nutrition for 1 portion

Calories: 84kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 3gFat: 3gSodium: 564mgFiber: 2gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 5460IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
Keyword papaya, som tum, spicy
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was! #culinaryambition

3 Comments

  1. This looks soooo good.

    1. Thanks a lot! Can’t go wrong with Thai food!

    2. Thanks a lot! You can never go wrong with Thai food!

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