Crunchy and so addictive, a som tam salad must be the following four things- sweet, sour, hot and salty. Contrary to popular belief, som tam does not translate to Raw Papaya Salad. Som Tam means pounded, which refers to the pounding motion of the salad when it is prepared in a clay mortar and pestled to bruise, not grind them. And so, while the popular Raw Papaya version is a som tam, not all som tams use raw papaya. Building from this, I wanted to see what other ingredients would sit well with the som tam dressing that I’m so fond of. Apple jujubes, or crisp big ber (apple bor/kul) with their sweet-tart apple flavour was a welcome addition to my stone mortar.
Som tam’s crunch has a lot to do with how you cut your vegetables, and so I suggest you invest in a good julienne peeler for this job. Get a good one from OXO via Amazon for 650 INR. I’ve been using other OXO products for some time now and their peelers have not once let me down. The peeler glides very smoothly and does a quick job of a whole batch of vegetables within a matter of minutes. The julienne peeler will also give you spaghetti-like strands of the vegetable, which is not a box grater’s job.
Coming to the dressing, I use fish sauce, tamarind water, bird’s eye chillies and gur to bring a balance of salty, sour, hot and sweet. Dried prawns and peanuts are a must because that bit of funk and bite is what will make it a truly flavourful som tam.
Ber/ Jujube 3, big ones, peeled using a julienne peeler or chopped into thin juliennes
Raw Papaya 1/2, peeled using a julienne peeler or chopped into thin juliennes
Garlic 4 cloves
Bird’s eye chilli 3
Lime 1, juiced
Tamarind juice 1 tbsp
Gur 1 tbsp (jaggery)
Dried prawns 1 tbsp
Fish Sauce 1 tbsp
Roasted peanuts 2 tbsp
Coriander 1 tbsp, chopped, for garnishing
optional- seasonal Red carrots chopped into thin juliennes (1/4 cup),cherry tomatoes (3-4)
In a stone mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic, dried prawns, chilli and the peanuts together. Add in the tomatoes, carrots at this stage if using and smash a few times. Next, add in the fish sauce, tamarind juice, gur (jaggery) and 1 tbsp of the lime juice. Smash a few more times till the jaggery has incorporated well into the rest of the chilli paste.
Add in the ber and raw papaya juliennes and mix everything inside the mortar with a spoon.
Transfer to a plate and serve, garnished with chopped coriander.