Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam Esan)-Thailand

While I adore spring rolls, they are a major pain to make not to mention incredibly time consuming. And with the temperatures here in Pittsburgh having returned to mild “heat wave” levels, I wanted a light and extremely simple side dish to accompany a Thai chicken soup I made. I came across a recipe for Som Tam Esan which is a green papaya salad. Although I’ve seen it on the menu enough times at Thai restaurants, I’ve never ordered it but now seemed as good a time as any to try it.

I like papaya, I just don’t love it. I know I’ve commented before that if you’ve never tried it, it doesn’t have the most awesome of tastes (not to be gross but to me it tastes slightly like vomit-slightly though). However, it is one of those fruits that while ugly on the outside, it’s stunning on the inside (not to mention a completely different shade). But I am always on the lookout for non-lettuce salads so I was open to trying it.

Let’s just say that papaya paired with garlic and chilis not to mention anchovy sauce (okay I substituted with fish sauce which is still made with anchovies), produces the most startling of contrasts. You think you’re eating just fruit but then the spicy “zing” hits you. It’s not a dish I could eat often, however, once in a blue moon, on a hot summer spring night, it was a pleasant addition.

(Although it doesn’t look like papaya, I swear it is. Once it was shredded it definitely took on more of an orange hue)

Som Tam Esan (Green Papaya Salad)
Grace Dykstra-July 20, 2005 issue of The Province
-1 medium dark green papaya (unfortunately my supermarket only had one version of papaya and the Asian grocery store I visited had none so I had to make do)
-4 garlic cloves
-6 green Thai chilis (once again, substitute accordingly if you need to-I did)
-2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
-1/2 cup chopped green beans, in 1-inch pieces
-2 tbsps. anchovy sauce
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 cup lime juice or tamarind juice
-Peel papaya and rinse with running water to remove the acid. Remove seeds and shred papaya with a grater. Set aside. (I did this and thought the papaya came out incredibly watery. You may want to just remove the seeds and cut the papaya into small pieces instead). 
Place garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle and mash until crushed into chunks. Place papaya and remaining ingredients in mortar and gently combine all by mixing with pestle and spoon. Serve cold.
Serves 4

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