Green papaya salad, tam mak houng, is a traditional Lao dish but commonly known to foreigners by its Thai name, som tam. This dish was popularized in Thailand by the people of Lao ethnic origin, the Isans, living in the northeast of the country.
Tam mak houng is served with pork rind chips (khiep mou), water morning glory and galadium. In Vientiane, it is common to see it accompanied by a plate of rice vermicelli (khao poun).
For 4 people
400 g green papaya, grated
1 clove of garlic
3 chili peppers
3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
½ teaspoon of shrimp paste (kapi)
1 large tomato, cut into 8
Alternative or complementary ingredients
Salty taste: unfiltered fish sauce (pa dek), crab sauce (nam pou)
Acid taste: tamarind paste, cooked sour plum (mak kok)
Additional vegetables: sliced round eggplants, chopped asparagus beans, grated carrots
Others: peanuts, dried shrimps
In a large mortar, crush the garlic and chili peppers.
Add sugar, lemon juice and fish sauce. Dilute the shrimp paste in the mixture.
Add the green papaya and mash while mixing with a spoon.
Once the papaya is well covered with the sauce, add the tomatoes and mash again to mix well.
“Green papaya is sometimes replaced by grated cucumber (tam mak teng) or asparagus beans (tam mak thoua). I don't put tomatoes in the tam mak teng and I add crushed ginger in the tam mak thoua.”
How to grate a green papaya
Peel the papaya.
The traditional method consists of making notches in the papaya with a large knife and then cutting thin slices either with the large knife or with a peeler.
The second method is to use a papaya grater. You can find it in Asian food stores.