Som Tam - Thai Papaya Salad
This salad is such a joyful reminder, for me, of carefree sunshine travel. And alongside Pad Thai was a dish enjoyed almost daily, when I was lucky enough to enjoy Thai travels.
Whilst we at Pear&Potato do like to nudge ourselves towards local food, we do also occasionally enjoy seasonal produce from around the world, as we believe that culinary curiousity is a vital part of staying vegcentric. So, forgive my indulgence, but at a time of the year when many of us would be venturing to Asian destinations, it feels nice to include a nod to those far off places until we see them again.
So, if you haven't tackled a papaya before, the sheer size will be the first observation. We have included slightly under ripe produce so that you can enjoy this recipe, with the skin still largely green and the inner flesh pale green, firm and crunchy. The lovechild of a melon and a cucumber, if you will. This is the perfect ripeness for Som Tam. However, if you wish to leave it a week or so (especially next to a banana) it will ripen and sweeten and be more enjoyable as a raw fruit.
As you slice into it, you'll be startled by the onyx-like seeds. They are edible and, in fact, like many seeds have high nutritional content but sadly they don't taste of much. A bit peppery perhaps. I lightly roast mine and use them as a cheffy sprinkle over a dish like, oh, Som Tam.
Som Tam - Spicy Thai Papaya Salad (serves 2 as a main)
Half a Papaya - a handful of cooked broccoli or green beans - a couple of big handfuls of spinach or salad leaves - some cooked salmon or prawns - a good handful of salted peanuts, chopped - chef sprinkle (mircogreens/roasted papaya seeds) for the dressing: - large glug of olive oil - a large glug of fish sauce - a tablespoon of honey - juice of a lime - a couple of spring onions, finely chopped - a red chilli, finely chopped - salt and pepper to taste
First whisk or shake up all the dressing ingredients. Dancing around with the ingredients in a lidded jar does the job very nicely. The leave to the side, whilst you attack the papaya. A traditional Thai Salad would have shredded papaya, but I prefer more crunch, so julienne or diced would be my recommendation, but it's personal preference. The shape and size of the fruit might mean that you end up with all sorts of shapes and size pieces. And that's great too.
Once it's chopped, pop it in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Mix and make sure the fruit has a good coating. Leaving it for a few minutes will allow both softening and flavour infusion, so don't be in a rush to build the rest of your salad.
Chop some leaves to bite sized pieces and arrange on the plates with bite sized pieces of broccoli or halved beans. Add seafood if you fancy it, and even a few cherry tomatoes would go down a storm in this dish. Once you have a couple of nice plates add your papaya chunks and drizzle the rest of the dressing from the bottom of the bowl. Add on your peanuts and any chef sprinkles and you're good to go. Enjoy!