One of my favorite salads is Som Tam, or Green Papaya Salad. It is Thai in origin, crisp, refreshing, and nutritious. Of course, green papaya isn’t something we find growing in North Carolina and most likely not something that most people have lying around. This week, I really wanted it. What to do?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I created what I refer to as NC “Papaya” salad. Green papaya is a firm, greenish-white fleshed fruit with a fairly high moisture content. Think the consistency of jicama or an unripe mango. It can be a little tough and doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, tasting a little, well, greenish.
I thought cabbage would be a good substitute for the papaya texture, but where to get the “greenish” flavor. In the gravity of this dilemma, it hit me, an apple!
So, without further ado, I present:
NC “Papaya” Salad
1 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovies (made into paste)
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely diced
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs fish sauce
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp peanut butter
4 oz shredded green cabbage
1 apple, preferably granny smith, grated
1 medium sized green or red chilies, small diced (see notes)
5 green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 medium tomato, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
Lettuce leaves, mint and chopped roasted peanuts to garnish
Notes: The original recipe contains several ingredients most people may not have around the house regularly. I substituted with items I thought many would have, however I did not change the fish sauce out because I think it is an integral part of this dish and Thai cuisine in general. If you don’t have it, you can substitute light soy sauce. You can use any pepper you like, depending on your spice preference. I like it spicy, so I use fresh jalapeño or several Thai chilis.
If you have any questions, please contact Mitch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here for you.