Side dish

Thai Green Papaya Salad

Yields: 4 Servings Difficulty: Medium Prep Time: 25 Mins Total Time: 25 Mins
In Thailand, Green Papaya Salad is traditionally made in giant mortar and pestles large enough to hold the entire salad. The dressing is pounded first, and the rest of the salad is added, pounded a little and finally tossed. For this home version, we use an ordinary size mortar instead. We make the salad in stages, then bring it all together at the end in a bowl. Different method. Same result! Like all good Thai food, the taste of the finished dish should be a balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy. The lime brings zing, palm sugar adds sweetness, while the fish sauce and dried shrimp lend deep savouriness and complexity. For a truly authentic experience, be brave and don’t skimp on the chilli. Green Papaya Salad is MEANT to be spicy!

Ingredients

0/11 Ingredients
    Dressing
  • Green papaya salad

Instructions

0/7 Instructions
  • Crush peanuts: Place peanuts in a mortar and pestle. Pound lightly to break them up into largish pieces, not into powder. Transfer to bowl.
  • Garlic and chilli paste: Place garlic and chilli in the mortar. Pound into a paste. Add shrimp and pound to crush them – no need to grind them to a paste.
  • Dressing: Stir in palm sugar, lime and fish sauce until sugar dissolves. Pour Dressing into a large bowl.
  • Bruise snake beans: Add snake beans to mortar (in batches if needed). Pound to bruise, split and soften (they are raw, so they need to be bashed to soften). Add to Dressing.
  • Crush tomato: Grab handfuls of tomato, crush with your hands then add into the bowl.
  • Add papaya: Add papaya and 3/4 of the peanuts. Toss well with 2 wooden spoons or tongs.
  • Serve immediately (Note 7): Once everything is coated in Dressing, immediately pile up onto plates. Spoon over some dressing (there will be a bit of dressing still left in the bowl, that's normal). Garnish with Thai basil leaves, sprinkle with remaining peanuts. Serve immediately (Note 7).

Notes

1. Birds eye chillies – Authentic Green Papaya Salad is quite spicy. Very spicy! 6 chillies with the seeds in is the average strength of spiciness you get in Thailand and authentic Thai restaurants here in Sydney. Feel free to dial it back (1 chilli would be quite mild).

2. Dried shrimp – Small shrimp that are sun-dried, they are an ingredient used in Asian cooking to add savoury flavour. It tastes like concentrated shrimp (prawns). Sold at Asian grocery stores (small, light packet, not refrigerated, so suitable for online order).

Can’t find it?  If you skip the dried shrimp, you may find this dressing a bit one-dimensional. You can instead use the dressing in the Thai Beef Salad, which contains coriander to give it a boost. Quadruple it (ie. x 4)

3. Palm sugar – Sugar extracted from palm trees that has a wonderful caramel flavour. It comes in blocks, and needs to be grated using a box grater so it will dissolve into the dressing. Sold at large grocery stores in Australia (Coles, Woolies, Harris Farms) and Asian stores.

Grating – Hardness of blocks differ. If you have a really hard one, it will require some effort to grate. But persist! It’s doable! (I’m not exactly a gym junkie, and I can grate it fine 🙂 )

Substitute – Brown sugar.

4. Snake beans – Long beans that are a bit harder than ordinary green beans. Used raw in this dish, so it’s bruised to soften. Substitute green beans / French beans.

5. Green papaya – Unripened papaya. Find it at Thai or Vietnamese grocery stores, and sometimes Harris Farms in NSW and QLD (Aust).

Size – They come in various sizes. The one pictured is medium size, about 18cm / 7″ wide.

To prepare, peel the dark green skin off using a standard vegetable peeler (the skin is quite soft), then cut in half and remove the seeds using a spoon. Now finely shred using a julienne shredder, as pictured in post and in the video.

Subs – The best substitute is green mango, another unripened fruit used in salads in Thai cuisine but also an ingredient that would need to be sourced from an Asian store! Prepare and use in the same way.

The most similar readily accessible vegetable I can think of is telegraph / English cucumbers (the long ones), which are less watery than Lebanese cucumbers (shorter ones). Peel, scoop out and discard watery flesh, finely julienne the firm part. It will be slightly softer but similar in flavour and texture once dressed.

Alternatively, just use 4 very packed cups of finely shredded cabbage (wombok/Chinese cabbage or regular). It’s a different texture but it will still be extremely delicious and will have a similar “slaw-like” texture!

6. Thai Basil – It tastes like normal basil with a hint of aniseed and minty flavour. Nowadays it’s fairly widely available in Australia in large grocery stores (Coles, Woolies, Harris Farms), as well as Asian stores.

Best substitute: Coriander/cilantro. It brings a different flavour, but it’s on-theme and the best alternative, in my opinion. The next best substitute is ordinary Italian basil.

7. Serve immediately – This is important because the green papaya continues to wilt and leach liquid. This will dilute the flavour of the Dressing and the green papaya goes soggy.

Make ahead – You can make the salad ahead by preparing all the raw ingredients undressed. Shredded papaya keeps extremely well in an airtight zip-lock bag in the fridge for days, with no discolouration or degradation of quality.

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Watch the recipe video here:

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