green papaya salad (ຕໍາໝາກຫຸ່ງ—tam mak hoong)

Unripened, green papaya gives crisp texture to this traditional salad. Mixed with a basic blend of Southeast Asian spices, it is also cooling on a hot day. Green papaya salad is often served as a snack by vendors. This dish is great served alone and makes a great addition to a meal spread.

This recipe is very simple and makes a great introduction to Lao cooking technique. Spices are first pounded together in a mortar, then tossed with shredded papaya. Tomato can be added for extra juice and acidity. Peanut provides even more texture.

In Laos, this type of dish is know as tam som(ຕໍາສົ້ມ). Som(ສົ້ມ) means sour, the dominant flavor; tam(ຕໍາ) means pounded, indicating the process using a mortar and pestle. Green papaya salad, tam maak hoong(ຕໍາໝາກຫຸ່ງ), is the default and most popular bariety of tam som. It is also called bok l’hong(បុកល្ហុង) in Khmer, som tam(ส้มตำ) in Thai, and gỏi đu đủ in Vietnamese. Other types of tam som include green banana salad(ຕໍາໝາກກ້ວຍ), eggplant salad(ຕໍາຫມາກເຂືອ), cucumber salad(ຕໍາໝາກແຕງ), and long bean salad(ຕໍາໝາກຖົ່ວ).

green papaya salad in mortar

green papaya salad

green papaya salad


(serves 2)

2 clove garlic
4 bird’s eye chili
dash salt
1/4 tablet palm sugar
1 lime juice
1 tomato, chopped (optional)
1 green papaya, shredded
4 long bean, chopped (optional)
fistful peanut, roasted (optional)

• pound garlic, chili, salt, sugar, lime
• add tomato, papaya, peanut
• toss
• serve