Som tam is best known outside Thailand as green papaya salad, but it is actually less about the papaya and more about the process. Lightly pounding vegetables releases their juices which mix into a fresh, flavourful dressing. This carrot and cucumber version is light and delicious, and you don’t need to track down green papayas, which aren’t always available.
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 bird’s-eye chillies
- 1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in hot
- water for 20 minutes (optional)
- 50 ml lime juice
- 2 tsp palm sugar or caster sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 continental cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
- 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup green beans or snake beans, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 20 minutes
In a large mortar, place the garlic, chillies and dried shrimp (if using) and pound to a rough paste. Add the lime juice and sugar, and continue to pound until the sugar dissolves. Taste the mixture and adjust the sweetness if necessary with more sugar or lime juice – it should be slightly sweet, like lemonade. Then add the fish sauce a little at a time until the dressing tastes quite savoury.
Add the cucumber, carrot, beans and tomatoes and gently pound to bruise them and release their juices. Stir the peanuts through and serve.
• For a larger meal, stir through some crab meat, cooked prawns or shredded chicken.
Recipe and image from Adam's Big Pot by Adam Liaw (Hachette, $39.99, pbk)