Som Tum- Thai Papaya Salad

One of the most popular dishes in Thailand, som tum (ส้มตำ in Thai) refers to papaya salad, which is part of the traditional Thai meal.

When you think of a salad, the first thing that probably comes to mind is your typical leafy green, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe celery, maybe carrots. But did you know that some vegetables and fruits have been used to make salads?

Thai food has become somewhat of a staple in many American households, so it only makes sense that that this simple dish would be added to the repertoire of many Thai chefs. This simple salad is often served as a dish on its own, but it is also delicious when served over rice.

Green papaya is used in Som Tum, a famous Thai salad in which the ingredients are crushed together in a mortar and pestle. 

Horizontal view of som tum on a white plate with cucumber slices and lettuce leaves.

This meal may be found all throughout Thailand, with various flavors depending on where you go. ‘Tum’ means to pound, while ‘Som’ indicates sour. Som Tum is typically prepared by crushing the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

The last video demonstrates how to prepare it both with and without a mortar and pestle.  

Salads made with papaya

There are many variants of the same meal depending on the area in Thailand. The dish I’m demonstrating here is known as “Thai style” or “Tum Thai.” Peanuts, green beans, and dried shrimp are regular ingredients in this version, which is most popular in the United States. This variant will be included in the recipe. 

Som Tum on a white plate with cucumber slices on the side.

Som Tum, in Thailand’s north-east, sells pickled mud fish. Yes, mud fish may not seem very delicious, but if you didn’t know what you were eating, you’d probably simply assume it was salty.

Som Tum Boo, or papaya salad with salted crab, is another popular variant. The crab is fermented in salted water and utilized as a flavoring ingredient, rather than the cooked crab that most of us are accustomed to. 

Salad with Papaya Ingredients

Green Papaya- Green papaya is the primary component in papaya salad, and it must be used. Papayas that are yellow or sweet will not function. Green papaya has long been available in an Asian Market.  

Gold fork holding some papaya salad.

The papaya must be peeled, seeded, then shredded using a mandolin or shredder.

If you can’t locate green papaya, you may make Tum Thang using shredded cucumber or zucchini, which has a texture comparable to green papaya. 

Thai Bird’s Eye Chilies- These chilies are necessary for a classic papaya salad and can be purchased in most Asian markets. Serrano or habaneros may be used as a replacement, but instead of crushing them, I would slice them extremely thinly. 

Fish sauce may be purchased in most shops and on the internet. It’s another important component, however if you’re allergic to fish sauce, light soy sauce may be used instead. 

Up close view of som tum with plate on an angle.

Coconut Sugar is the sweetener of choice for me. Hard palm sugar is traditionally used, but coconut sugar is readily accessible and, in my opinion, tastes comparable. 

Dried Shrimp- You may get dried shrimp in an Asian market or online here. Regular whole shrimp, boiled just until done, may be used as a garnish on top of the papaya salad as a replacement. 

Tomatoes—I sliced roma tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes split in half also work nicely. To create the papaya salad’s “sauce,” you’ll want to retain the seeds in.

Papaya salad is traditionally served with sticky rice and Thai beef jerky, or grilled chicken or pork. Because it’s usually made hot, it’s served with lettuce or cabbage leaves on the side. 

Overhead view of papaya salad and a glass of water with cucumber inside.

Let’s create Som Tum now that we have all of the components!

Here’s the link to the YouTube video:

The following products were used:

Overhead view of papaya salad and a glass of water with cucumber inside.

Thai Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

Renee Fuentes is a model and actress.

Crisp green papaya, tomatoes, lime juice, and fish sauce are mashed together in a big mortar and pestle to make Som Tum, a famous Thai salad.

Time to Prepare: 25 minutes

25 minutes total


  • Remove the seeds from the papaya by peeling it and cutting it in half lengthwise. To make sure the papaya is cold, give it a short bath in ice water. Prepare the tomatoes by chopping them up and squeezing the lime juice. The papaya should next be shredded using a mandolin or peeler. You desire shreds as a result of your efforts.

  • In a mortar, pound the garlic cloves and Thai chili peppers until a paste forms. Use a food processor or finely chop the garlic and chili peppers if you don’t have a mortar.

  • In a mortar or dish, combine lime juice, fish sauce, coconut sugar, dried shrimp, tomatoes, green beans, and shredded papaya.

  • Pound until the papaya is uniformly covered in sauce and the tomatoes are slightly crushed. Then add your peanuts and taste to determine if you need more lime juice, fish sauce, or sugar.

  • If you’re using a bowl instead of a mortar, mash everything together with a meat mallet or meddler until it’s all combined.


Dried shrimp is available in Asian stores and on the internet. It’s typically found in the refrigerated area of the supermarket. If you can’t locate dried shrimp, boil some normal shrimp and sprinkle on top as a garnish. Hard palm sugar is traditionally used, but I like the ease of granulated coconut sugar. 

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Som Tum is a popular dish in Thailand that consists of fresh papaya or mango cut into cubes, thinly sliced green onions and crushed fresh chilies. Seasoning the salad with fish sauce and palm sugar, Som Tum is a delicious and refreshing recipe.. Read more about thai papaya salad near me and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make papaya salad som tum?

You mix together some lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and ground papaya. Then you add in some chopped green onions and cilantro.

Is Thai papaya salad healthy?

Thai papaya salad is a healthy dish. It contains vegetables, protein, and carbs.

How do you shred papaya for som tam?

The papaya is shredded by hand.

Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.