I fell in love with Green Papaya Salad on my trip to Bali last summer. We took a side trip to Nusa Lembongan, a tiny island off the coast of Bali and spent a couple days snorkeling and enjoying maximum relaxation time. While there, we dined outside at a Thai restaurant and I had my first taste of this dish…flavors of savory, spicy, sour and a little sweet all duked it out on my tongue. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to make Green Papaya Salad (or som tam as it’s called in Thai) myself and make it paleo-friendly. I’ll admit, this recipe may fit under the “special” category because you may have to do a little searching outside a conventional grocery store to find some of the ingredients, but any Asian food market should have these basic ingredients. Our local health food market actually has everything you’d need except the fish sauce and dried shrimp!
Most of the recipes I searched on-line use peanuts, bean sprouts and sugar to develop the complex flavor profile of som tam. With a few swaps, I figured out a couple ingredients that did the trick. My recommendation for fish sauce is Red Boat…paleo/Whole9 friendly (no added sugar). If you cannot find a fruit labeled “green papaya” just use an unripe papaya with green skin. I substituted cucumber for the bean sprouts (similar in color and texture) and roasted unsalted cashews for the peanuts.
1 medium-sized green papaya, about 4 cups shredded
1/2 of a cucumber
2 generous handfuls of cherry tomatoes
3 green onions
12 green beans
1 or 2 Thai red chili peppers*
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, washed and packed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp Red Boat fish sauce, or your favorite brand
1 tbsp coconut aminos
Drizzle of honey, optional
2 tbsp dried shrimp, optional
Roasted cashews and cilantro for garnish
1. Peel the papaya with a sharp knife. Julienne the flesh using a julienne peeler (as I did) or use a box grater to achieve a similar effect.
2. Prep the remaining veggies:
Peel and slice the cucumber lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and slice flesh into match-stick sized pieces.
Quarter the cherry tomatoes.
Slice the green onion into match-stick sized pieces (discard upper dark green parts).
Slice the green beans on the bias (diagonal) into long pieces.
*Mince the Thai chilis. CAUTION: Thai chili peppers, though tiny is size, pack a whallop of heat. Take care not to touch your eyes, etc when prepping them. I scooped out all the seeds prior to mincing and it was still a medium-spicy. I recommend starting with ONE and upping to two or three if it’s not hot enough for you.
Roughly chop the basil leaves. Add all veggies and papaya to a large mixing bowl.
3. Juice the limes and pour over the veggies. Hint: roll your limes on the counter prior to squeezing to help release the juice.
4. Add fish sauce, coconut aminos and (optional) a drizzle of honey.
5. If you prefer, add the dried shrimp and then let sit for 30 min for all the flavors to meld. Garnish with chopped cashews and cilantro prior to serving. Serve straight up or as a delicious side dish to grilled chicken or fish.
Enjoy the taste-circus that’s about to happen in your mouth!