Every time I travel to Thailand, Som Tam – Green Papaya Salad – is on the list of must-eats for me – it is so fresh and spicy and perfect on those hot and humid days. This recipe is a vegan version of Som Tam which is usually made with fish sauce and dried shrimp.
The green papaya is just an unripe papaya. It is very mild in flavor and perfect to be used in salads. Choose one that is firm, without blotchy areas or soft spots. If you cannot find one at your local shop, get one that is as pale in color as possible, light yellow-orange.
Store the papaya in the fridge, wrapped in a paper towel to absorb extra moisture. Stored like this, it should keep for up to 10 days.
Some Asian shops will sell pre-shredded green papaya. It needs to be used within a days, otherwise it will get soggy. You can use salt to squeeze out excess liquid, however fresh is best.
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
Ingredients for vegan Green Papaya Salad:
1 firm green papaya, peeled
10 green beans, stems trimmed
1 small carrot, grated
1/4 white cabbage, sliced into thin strips
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled + chopped
1-2 (Thai) chilis, red or green, finely chopped *
2 TBSP Tamari Sauce or Coconut Amino Acids or Soy Sauce
1/2 lime, juice
1 tsp coconut sugar, xylitol or coconut nectar or honey
1 dash of sea salt, to taste
Garnish: cilantro or Thai basil, chili, peanuts or cashews, raw or dry roasted in a pan
How to prepare vegan Green Papaya Salad:
Julienne the papaya into match stick thick strips, around 6 cm or 2-3 inches long.
Trim the ends of the beans and cut the beans around half as long as the papaya strips.
Slice the cabbage, julienne the carrots, half the tomatoes.
Combine the above in a bowl.
Combine everything else in another bowl and mash with mortar and pestle (see note).
Stir into salad, let it marinate in the fridge for 2 hours or more if possible.
Sprinkle with chopped nuts, herbs and chili, serve.
Prepare the papaya by cutting off the stem and then peeling and cutting it in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a julienne slicer or mandolin slicer to cut the papaya into thin sticks. Make sure they are not too fine, otherwise they will lose their crunch or won’t absorb all the flavour of the sauce. Match stick size is perfect – around 1/8 inch or 4mm thick.
No mortar & pestle? Put the ingredients in a zip lock bag and place the bag on a cutting board. Hit it with a small, heavy pan or with a rolling pin until everything is smashed into little pieces.
Use leftover papaya for a natural exfoliating face mask: the moisture in papaya contains the enzyme papain which is a great skin exfoliant and digestive. Simply rub it onto your skin and let it dry while preparing the salad. Rinse and be amazed by your fresh, smooth face!
C = cup, 240 ml
1/2 C = half a cup, 120 ml or / TBSP
1/4 C = quarter of a cup, 60 ml or 4 TBSP
TBSP = table spoon, 15 ml or 3 tsp
tsp = tea spoon, 5 ml
“soft dates” = medjool are usually best. If necessary, soak briefly and drain. The soaking water is super sweet by the way!