Bring the flavours of an authentic Laotian dish to your table with this delicious green papaya salad. Sweet, sour, and spicy, it's as tasty as easy to prepare. Let's do it!
Green papaya salad is a staple food in Laos culinary traditions, along with sticky steamed rice and meat salad. It's known as tam mak hoong in Laos and som tam in Thailand, translating into "pounded papaya" and "pounding of sour ingredients", respectively.
This dish consists of fresh chillies, lime juice, shrimp paste, palm sugar, garlic, and fish sauce pounded in a mortar. This flavourful sauce is then mixed with shredded unripe papaya, halved tomatoes, chopped green beans, and sometimes aubergines. The result is a unique dish that combines the five main tastes of Laos cuisine: spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and fishy. Yummy!
Green papaya is quite different from the sweet and juicy papaya we are used to here in the West. Unripe papaya is a very big fruit, and it has a pale green flesh, firm and crisp. It's likely you won't find green papaya at the supermarket but rather at your local Asian food store. For this recipe, you'll have to peel the papaya green skin and then shred the flesh into long, thin strips. A mandoline slicer set to julienne mode will give you the best result with zero effort, but you can also use a knife or box grater.
As for the other ingredients, shrimp paste and fish sauce are easier to find even at a normal supermarket; but we'll give you tips on how to swap them if you can't get them. This papaya salad is supposed to be very spicy, so we recommend using bird's eye chillies which are thin, red chillies. If you think they're too spicy for you, start with one and add more according to taste.
What we love about this recipe is that it's easy, quick, and low in calories. One serving has only 85 calories meaning you can prepare it as a side dish to enjoy with sticky rice, stir-fries, noodles, or glazed tofu. Awesome!