Joe’s Som Tum Recipe

  • Limes (at least one, juiced, must be a rather sour one)
  • Palm sugar (can use white or brown sugar)
  • Green papaya
  • Green beans (for a couple cups of papaya you’d need 5 or so, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 Thai mouse poop chilies peppers or 2 finger sized serranos (or more to taste, I usually use 8-10 Thai chilies)
  • 1 Roma tomato or 5-6 cherry tomatoes (cut the cherries in half or cut the regular tomato into the size of half a cherry)
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts
  • 1-3 teaspoons of dried shrimp (this is VERY VERY optional)
  • Fish sauce
  • Grilled (or steamed) FRESH shrimp (this is optional as well but the sauce is good on shrimp and makes this more of a meal)

First peal the papaya and make sure you get all the skin off, a potato peeler will need to take 5-10 swipes at it to make sure all the peal is gone. If you don’t get deep enough, sometimes the peal leaves a formaldehydey-kinda smell and taste (not good eats). Shred it with a Zigzag shredder or watch this video to see the Thai traditional knife-shred method. but don’t go into the seed cavity or get any of the fuzzy stuff surrounding said cavity.

If you have raw or blanched peanuts, pan roast them. If you have a Thai-style crock (see below) use it. A steel mixing bowl works OK though.

Put the lime juice in the bowl, put some sugar and fish sauce (enough to make a tangy sweet and salty mixture). Get the sweet, sour and salt balance right before moving on.

Put half the nuts, garlic, dried shrimp (if you are using them) and chilies in the liquid and crush them with something (a meat tenderizer worked for me last night) don’t mince the garlic or chilies, just crush them some but make sure the peanuts are crushed into small pieces. Next add the green beans and papaya. Pound them a little to get help the liquid get into the papaya and bruise the beans.

My very first ever plate of som tum, in Bangkok

If you do this too much the papaya will lose all crispness, you’re not looking for that. You could almost skip this step but a little pounding will make it better. Add the tomatoes and mix them in–maybe bruise them a little, little bit. Mix all of it up well and put onto a plate.

At this point, a nice addition of shelled steamed or grilled fresh shrimp could placed on top with some more juice drizzled over them. Sprinkle the remaining (halved) peanuts on top and Bob’s your uncle…


About Joe Graff

President and co-owner of DC based design studio, icon werx, inc. Lived in Thailand for 8+ years (2003-2011). Rheumatoid arthritis and triple joint replacement patient.
This entry was posted in Side Dish, Thai and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Joe’s Som Tum Recipe

  1. Sunni says:

    Hello Joe. Where do I send my recipe: Thai Simple Shrimp Egg Salad 🙂 S. I’ll include pics & ingredients too!

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