Som tam, or green papaya salad, is a wonderfully spicy, sour and refreshing dish from Northeastern Thailand. It's name translates as 'sour pounded', describing the method in which the ingredients are mixed together in a pestle and mortar. Traditionally in Thailand the customer would specify how they would like the dish to be prepared, but in essence it combines the four main tastes of Thai cuisine, hot, salty, sweet and sour.
Salads like this are usually served garnished with dried fish, shrimps, or crushed peanuts. I picked up some 'fish floss' recently in Chinatown; moreish dried fish flakes which make the perfect sweet and smoky foil for the fresh flavours in the dish. Substitute with a few toasted dried shrimp or roasted peanuts if you can't get hold of it.
I've made this version with green mango, giving a similarly sour flavour and crisp texture. The dish often contains cherry tomatoes and green beans, but I like the crunch and sweetness of carrot and the freshness of cucumber. Lots of fresh mint and coriander to finish, and a cold beer, finish things off nicely.
1 medium green mango
2 medium carrots
A few sprigs of mint
A few sprigs of coriander
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsps palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 bird's eye chilli
Dried fish floss (or dried shrimps or crushed peanuts)
Peel mango and carrots and grate into a large bowl.
Pound chilli in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.
Taste dressing, it should be balanced between hot, sweet, sour and salty. Adjust as necessary.
Add dressing and herbs to grated mango and carrot and mix thoroughly.
Serve sprinkled with fish floss and with cucumber batons.