Thai Inspired Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

Our master bedroom has always been off-limits to our dog.

We established these parameters right from the get-go and in the four years that we’ve been together, she has only tested these boundaries twice. Her most recent transgression happened when we were preparing our home for sale in Ottawa.  There were at least 6 workmen tirelessly combing the main floor – Stella’s floor – shuffling to and fro, painting, refinishing, repairing.  A constant bustle of movement and noise.

One afternoon in the middle of the chaos, I couldn’t find our girl anywhere.  I looked in all the usual places and even ran to the neighbor’s to see if she had somehow managed to escape. Not a trace.  Seven minutes later (read: an eternity), I found her curled up in a little ball in the corner of our bedroom, her face tucked under her paw.  She looked so small and helpless.  My heart sank.  I scooped her up off the floor and lay her on my tummy as I sat on the hard wood floor sobbing. Neither one of us wanted to leave.

Fast forward nine months and we have re-established the same boundaries here in CA and our four-legged lovely has respectfully kept her distance from our master bedroom. At least, that is, until Sunday, May 11th. I was sound asleep when a wet-nosed golden girl snuck into our bedroom and proceeded to give me a full face wash at 6:00 am.  It was a deluge of doggie kisses! And although I’ve always been one to prize my sleep-in days when I can snag them, I could not have been any happier to receive this very genuine and most unexpected wake-up call.

The boys dismiss the whole thing as coincidence.  But I say, there’s no such thing. My girl was coming in to wish me a happy mother’s day, and that’s that.

The second gift I received on mother’s day was a fabulously functional shredding tool — the Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler to be exact (thank you boys!) that allowed me to make short work of this Thai Green Papaya Salad.

Salty, Sweet, Sour and Spicy, you will fall in love with this refreshing and delicious summer gem and quickly understand why it is consistently ranked among Thailand’s most popular dishes.  I’m talkin’ lip smacking, pucker-inducing, good.

I describe this salad as Thai inspired because in traditional Thai cooking, measuring devices are not used and nor are handy-dandy shredding tools that make the job easier. ‘Tum’ literally translates into “pound” and most/or all of the ingredients in this salad are traditionally pounded in a giant sized mortar with pestle.  But since most of us do not own head-sized mortars and pestles the length of our forearms, I’ve introduced some options that are more likely to accommodate what the average person has on hand.

Be sure to check out the Nutrition & Cooking Notes for nutrition information, cautions and options.

Thai Inspired Green Papaya Salad

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

For the Salad:
  • 1 medium sized green papaya, peeled and shredded*
  • 2 medium sized carrots, peeled and shredded
  • handful of green beans (about 12), cut into roughly 1″ pieces 
  • handful of cherry tomatoes (about 8), cut in half or quarters
  • handful dried shrimp, optional (I have not used them here)
  • handful chopped peanuts
  • handful fresh cilantro
For the dressing:
  • Juice of two limes (about 1/4 – 1/3 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fish sauce 
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 bird’s eye chili (Thai chili) or to taste, seeded and chopped* 
  • 1-2 tsp (5-10 mL) palm sugar (sub sugar of choice)
Serves 4

Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
  1. What is Green Papaya? Green papaya is simply an unripe papaya. You can find green papaya in many local grocery stores as well as Asian markets.  They look a little bit like a green football. Try to find a hard, green papaya — if the exterior peel of the papaya is yellowing, it will be too sweet and soft inside.  The interior flesh should be white to pale yellow in colour depending on its stage of ripeness.
  2. Preparing your Papaya: Green papaya must be peeled before eating.  You can simply use a carrot peeler for this if you like. Once you have peeled the papaya, you want to shred the white-yellow interior just until you get to the flesh surrounding the seeds (this will sometimes be a soft pink colour) again depending on the fruit’s stage of ripeness.  You can also slice the papaya in two, remove the seeds and then shred both halves if you prefer.
  3. Health Benefits of Papaya: In addition to its nutrient content (vits, mins, antioxidants), green papaya contains a natural enzyme – papain – that assists with digestion.  The enzyme levels decline as the fruit ripens.
  4. CAUTION: Bird’s eye chili (Thai chili) is *very* hot.  Though these chilis are delicious in Thai cuisine, caution is needed when preparing them.  If you are using a mortar & pestle, be sure to look away while pounding the chilis in case any oils from the chili splashes up.  I also use latex gloves when handling these chilis.  If you prefer something with less intense heat, you can use a differnt type of chili that you are more familiar with or substitute 1 tsp (or to taste) of Spicy Thai Chili Sauce (Thai Kitchen is one brand).
  5. Variations: Carrots are not traditionally part of the Thai Green Papaya Salad but I love them here and of course, you can use any vegetable substitution you wish.  Make it your salad!


  1. Using a mortar & pestle (or a little spice blender), gently pound/blend the garlic and bird’s eye chili (or chili of choice) until they are well broken down.  If you are using bird’s eye chili be very careful not to look down on the chili while pounding in case any oils splash up.
  2. If you are using a mortar & pestle, add the chopped green beans and shrimp (if using) to the garlic/chili mixture and gently pound to break/bruise them slightly so that they absorb the dressing better.  If you don’t have a mortar & pestle, simply skip this step and transfer the garlic/chili to a bowl and reserve the chopped beans and shrimp (if using).
  3. To the mortar or bowl, add: lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar, mixing well with a spoon or your pestle to combine.  
  4. Be sure to sample the dressing and make any adjustments desired (seeking a balance between sweet, salty, sour and spicy that you enjoy). 
  5. Place your shredded papaya in a large salad bowl and add carrots, tomato, and any reserved beans and shrimp (if using).  
  6. Toss in fresh chopped cilantro.
  7. Right before you are ready to serve the salad, give the dressing a final mixing and then drizzle it over the salad ingredients, mixing well to combine. If you toss the delicate papaya shreds in dressing too early, it will be overly mushy come eating time, so you want to time this so that it happens only moments before consumption.
  8. Plate the salad into individual serving bowls and top with an additional sprig of cilantro and some chopped peanuts.
  9. Enjoy!
© Inspired Edibles


“Do you think the universe fights for souls to be together?
Some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences.” 
“The probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful (or tragic) way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence.” 
Coincidence is the divine’s way of remaining anonymous
– Einstein

everything visible is preceded by the invisible

It's only fair to share...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone


  1. Elizabeth says

    Oh, what a sweet story Kelly and I love how you sprinkled this post with thoughtful quotes… it really does make you wonder. I’m with you, I think some things are just beyond our understanding and operate at a different frequency. What a great way to start mother’s day — a deluge of doggie kisses! I love it. I was moved by your description of finding Stella in the bedroom in Ottawa… it’s so very hard to leave home; I get it.

    Kelly, this salad, is just gorgeous. I can taste all of the different sensations from here. Pucker-inducing for sure :). You know, we love Thai food (including mango and papaya salads) but I’ve never even considered taking it on in my kitchen. I like how you simplify and provide options. It really does make it seem ‘doable’. Beautiful photos! Loved this post.

  2. SallyBR says

    Well, if your intention was to melt my heart, you did it! What a sweet, sweet story, and yes, we caught Chief in the most unusual places during our kitchen renovation, poor thing. I guess we cannot quite imagine what it means to our pets, to have their world turned upside down, without the benefit we have: we planned it, we prepared for it, we know it will be a temporary mess….

    lovely post, lovely recipe, and of course it was not a coincidence, it was a well planned Mother’s Day gift!

  3. Gintare @Gourmantine says

    That is such a sweet story and so rewarding to have a sometimes naughty family member :) This salad looks so refreshing!

  4. Angie says

    Your boys are so sweet :-) I love that small, yet practical kitchen tool.
    The salad looks amazingly appetizing and beautiful, Kelly.

  5. Sandra @ Kitchen Apparel says

    What a sweet story! You got ME this time…brought tears to my eyes :) I definitely think Stella was wishing you a happy mother’s day for sure! I have to agree that a coincidence is sometimes more then just a coincidence.

    This is such a beautiful dish. One of my favorites, but I have never made it at home. You are giving me the confidence to give it a try since I have one of those peelers but haven’t ever used it before. You are the master at Thai food Kelly! It looks exactly like the salads I get at fancy Thai restaurants. Really spectacular!!!

  6. Clare DM. says

    Your writing is so beautiful… I had the biggest lump in my throat reading this and pushing back tears as I sit at my desk (shh! don’t tell anyone ;). Such a great story and I just want to give that dog of yours a huge hug. What a sweetheart. Now that salad… shockingly gorgeous! I’m so ordering that peeling tool. I cannot wait to try this at home. Thanks for all the great instructions too; I think I might even be able to pull this off. And seriously, who doesn’t love Thai green papaya salad? Huge fan here; totally excited :)

  7. says

    Kelly, your story reminds me of the times when I had a dog too… She was MY dog (if you know what I mean) and I missed her for many years… The salad looks fabulous, so fresh and light…. I often make a mango, cucumber and chicken salad and yours reminds me a bit of this one (especially with the amazing colours!). I smiled when I saw your explanation about “inspired”. I also prefer adding it (I actually added the word “inspired” to my categories of dishes (by country) quite a long time ago because I know how people can sometimes be sensitive…. (I actually am too, and not only about my home country dishes :-) ).
    It’s funny: I also have the same julienne peeler (actually even two, from different brands). It has changed my life!

  8. Shu han says

    Aw what a cute story! Really made me smile! Of course it was not a coincidence- dogs know their shit!

    Also really impressed with your shredder! I am so getting that for my new kitchen, especially given that I do a lot of asian vegetable salads. I can imagine making veggies ‘noodles’ using these too- perfect since courgettes are just coming into season now! The som tum looks fantastic- one of my favourite Thai salads. p.s.mortar and pestle a must.

    Good one Kelly and a belated happy mother’s day to you :)

  9. Eva Taylor says

    That shedder makes the most beautiful threads, you just know I want one! Your boys were very thoughtful to hive you one for Mother’s Day. I’m loving all the flavours in this beautiful slaw; I had no idea green papayas were just un ripe fruit; my 19-ingredient (Singapore slaw inspired) uses mango that us slightly hard so that grating it is easier. We used to give the bunny super papaya enzyme to help digest hair balls because unlike cats, bunnies are incapable of vomiting (something I really like about them, and that they are super cute!)
    How sweet that your girl wished you a happy Mother’s Day, definitely not a coincidence.

  10. inspirededibles says

    Thank you Elizabeth ♡ It was one of the nicest surprises I have ever received. So unexpected and kind of magical… So glad you like the salad – we love our Thai food!! It really is easy to prepare and once you cross that barrier and make your first dish, you’ll be on an unstopable roll :) xx

  11. inspirededibles says

    You’re so right Sally… it really does turn their worlds upside down and since they only live in the moment, that moment is pretty overwhelming. They just swell our hearts don’t they. We are agreed then, no coincidence :).

  12. inspirededibles says

    What a great way to put it! Her naughtiness was indeed a gift. Thanks for stopping by Gintare ♡

  13. inspirededibles says

    Wow, thank you so much Sandra! Coming from a skilled photographer like yourself, I am very touched by your words. We *loved* this salad and I can’t emphasize enough how truly easy it is. I am not a fussy cook by any means and this recipe works nicely with those sensibilities ;-).

    I’m happy you liked the story… she touched me so much too… it was hard not to be streaming tears that morning. Doggies are just so full of love you know — it’s kind of a beautiful thing ♡.

  14. inspirededibles says

    Awww, thanks so much Clare – kisses!. I can’t stop hugging my dog either; it’s a full time preoccupation ;-). The peeler is AWEsome — a must invest, worth every penny :). Let me know how it goes if you give a try. Enjoy the long weekend!

  15. inspirededibles says

    Thank you for your thoughtful note Sissi. We love our pets don’t we…I had a lovely women drop me the sweetest note about how her pets continue to follow her in her dreams even though they have now both departed… more balling (it’s not easy being an oversensitive gal sometimes ;-).

    You hit it bang on the head with the sensitivities regarding native dishes and no matter how hard I might try, I will always manage to ruffle somebody’s feathers ;-) — I completely understand. The funny thing is, even within Thailand (or any country) there are going to be variations in the recipe and even in the name of the recipe; there’s no way to please all :). Haha, love how a peeler can change one’s life — so true! Happy Weekend Sissi! xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *