This is exciting news. Today marks Vegan Miam’s 2nd blogiversary. A few years ago I initially started a travel blog to share our experiences as vegan travelers, but quickly found that our experiences abroad motivated us to craft dishes inspired by our travels. This journey had transformed our blog into a vegan food and travel blog and my partner Doni later joined the blog.
To celebrate our 2nd blogiversary, we are hosting a small worldwide giveaway. We are personally giving away a brand new versatile kitchen tool, Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler with Stainless Steel Handle and a handwritten postcard from our upcoming trip to northern Italy. This is one of our favorite kitchen tools, we use it for everything from making raw ‘noodles’, to beautifully constructed salads and garnishes, and of course the “Thai Green Papaya Salad” (Som Tam ส้มตำ) recipe below.
In addition to our blogiversary, Doni and I are leaving for Italy soon and we’ll be taking some time off so we can focus on some additional projects. While I’m away, you can always catch up with me on Instagram here. I might not be blogging on a regular basis, but I will be featuring a medley of amazing guest bloggers for the remainder of the year who will be sharing just a few of their absolutely delicious recipes or vegan discoveries. So check back regularly to see who we have next on our weekly guest blogger spot. After we return from Italy and a short period back in Oregon, we’ll finish off the year with trips to Bangkok and Chiang Mai Thailand, Jakarta Indonesia, Auckland New Zealand, Singapore and Melbourne Australia. So we have a long and interesting road ahead for the second half of 2014!
Onto this recipe, I’ve been wanting to make this Northeastern Thai Green Papaya Salad, also known as ‘Som Tam ส้มตำ’, for so long. Knowing I will be returning to Chiang Mai soon was enough to prompt me to finally make it at home. It is a refreshing green papaya salad with tangy, sweet, sour and spicy flavors, perfect for hot summery days. As is the essence of Thai cuisine, these components each deliver strong, contrasting flavors that balance one another out and come together as one. The slightly tart flavor of the green papaya combines with the spiciness of the red chili, the saltiness of the vegan fish sauce and the sweet and sour flavors of the tamarind paste to form the foundation of this dish.
I had a fermented and spicy green papaya salad in Chiang-Mai, described as ‘Som Tam Lao‘ and it was absolutely pungent, sour and spicy. I am curious to know how they produced such pungent flavors so well. I attempted to use some stinky rejuvelac, and it wasn’t as pungent as I had expected. The recipe I will share today isn’t the fermented variety of Green Papaya salad, so this won’t have that pungent aroma and flavor.
The core ingredient is a neutral, virtually flavorless and certainly not sweet, elongated green-skinned green papaya with light green, crunchy flesh. These characteristics make Green Papaya analogous to a vegetable in Asian cuisine. When choosing green papayas for this salad, choose the unripe, firm and greenish papayas with no soft spots or blotchy areas and wrap them with a paper towel in the fridge for about two weeks. The flesh should be pale-ish green, crunchy and not sweet. Green papayas vary in shape from round to elongated. They are sometimes shredded and used in stews or salads, and they are readily available in the produce section at Latin and Asian supermarkets.
To cut green papaya into shreds, peel the papaya skin using a vegetable peeler, halve the papaya lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a julienne peeler to julienne them into matchsticks. Or use a mandolin, blades set to ⅛”, to produce papaya slices and then proceed to matchstick with a knife. Make sure the shreds are not too fine or thick otherwise they get mushy or won’t absorb the flavors of the sauce.
There is a traditional method to cut the papaya into shreds (in a very traditional Thai way), but it can be a bit dangerous. For the traditional method of slicing green papaya you will just need one large sharp knife (Chef’s knife, Santoku, Vegetable Cleaver all work) and a sure hand.
Gripping the peeled papaya in one hand and your sharp knife in the other hand, make rapid vertical chopping slices into the papaya using your knife. Then take the blade of your knife, placing it perpendicular to existing scored slices in the papaya and run it just beneath the existing slices, removing shreds from the papaya with each swipe. If your papaya or matchsticks are long, slice them down to about 2-3 inches in length. There’s a very helpful video demonstration here.
Top row, from left: Vegan Fish Sauce, Tamarind Concentrate and Coconut Sugar Mixture; Green Papaya Shreds, Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Thai Chili Peppers; Shredded Carrots, Lime Juice, Crushed Roasted Peanuts, and Fresh Garlic
Another unique ingredient in this recipe is tamarind. Here in the U.S. it can be very difficult to find fresh tamarind. Tamarind is best described as having a sweet and sour taste. The brown tamarind pods contain a gummy reddish-brown pulp that encases hard seeds. If you do find tamarind pulp, or paste that contains seeds, you will want to discard them because they are hard and generally inedible.
Tamarind is a pretty useful and frequently used ingredient in Thai cooking, providing a fruity tartness to soups, salad, sauces, stir fries and dressings. The tamarind I used in my recipe was the only one available in my area, a tamarind concentrate by LAXMI that included additional sweeteners. Tamarind pastes and concentrates can typically be found in Latin and Asian markets. If using tamarind paste, add additional sugar (palm or coconut sugar preferably) to reach desired sweetness. You can also try and make your own tamarind paste following the instructions here.
This recipe involves the use of a mortar & pestle, necessary for crushing some of the ingredients. I used an average-sized marble mortar & pestle to make my papaya salad and as a result I had to make my salad in batches. In Thailand they use a clay mortar with a wooden pestle, and these are available in various sizes including some that are downright massive and stand multiple feet tall. If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, place the ingredients in a large plastic bag (make sure there’s a cutting board or hard protective layer on top of your counter or table) and pound the contents with a rolling pin or the bottom of a small heavy pan.
- Prepare your vegan fish sauce using the recipe here (halve the vegan fish sauce recipe). Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.
- Prepare two batches if you have a standard mortar and pestle. Pound garlic and chiles together in a mortar and pestle (See Notes) until they form a smooth paste. Add the beans and pound well to bruise. Follow with the green papaya and carrot. Stir well with a big spoon and pound to bruise the vegetables so that they absorb the heat and flavor of the chiles and garlic.
- Add the sauce and continue to pound a bit more, tossing. Add tomatoes, stir and lightly pound to slightly bruise them. Transfer to a covered bowl and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight to let the flavors combine well.
- After refrigeration, sprinkle the peanuts, cilantro and Thai basil leaves over the top and serve.
To cut green papaya into shreds, peel the papaya skin using a vegetable peeler, halve the papaya lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a julienne peeler to julienne them into matchsticks. Or use a mandolin, blades set to ⅛”, to produce papaya slices and then proceed to matchstick with a knife. Make sure the shreds are not too fine or thick otherwise they get mushy or won’t absorb the flavors of the sauce. Each papaya shred should be about ⅛" thick.
If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, place the ingredients in a large plastic bag (make sure there’s a cutting board or hard protective layer on top of your counter or table) and pound the contents with a rolling pin or the bottom of a small heavy pan.
• This is a personal Giveaway provided by VEGAN MIAM. Open to international readers.
• The Giveaway ends Monday, July 14, 2014 at 11:59 PM PST.
• One winner will be drawn randomly by using Gleam and will be notified via a certified vegan miam email, unless otherwise stated. Winner must respond with current/correct address within forty-eight (48) hours or prize will be forfeited and another winner will be drawn.
• One winner will receive a brand new Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler with Stainless Steel Handle and a handwritten postcard from our upcoming trip to northern Italy.
• Prize will be shipped directly to the winner by VEGAN MIAM. VEGAN MIAM is not responsible for any unsent, lost or stolen prize(s).