The main ingredient in Thai Papaya Salad is fresh green papayas and that is the reason why this papaya salad is also referred to as the Green Papaya Salad. There are a few variations in the recipes for this popular Thai dish and the recipe given below is the most popular recipe for the papaya salad from Thailand.
Dried Chilies/ Green chillies
Small dried shrimp
Long beans ( or Snake beans )
Tamarind juice1 whole papaya
2 Tea Spoons
3 whole beans
1 1/2 Table Spoons
2 Table Spoons
3 Table Spoons
1/4 Cup unsalted
2 whole tomatoes
Processing the green papaya: The papaya would be around 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. Wash the raw papaya and take the skin off with a sharp knife. Wash the skinned papaya once again. After that, split the skinned green papaya vertically and then cut it into short strips. If you have a grater or scraper, just split the green papaya vertically (do not cut into short strips) and grate or scrape the two halves to fill around 3 cups. If you prefer using a shredder, just shred the short pieces till you get about 3 cups of shredded papaya.
Making the tamarind juice: Prepare tamarind juice by using 1 Tablespoon of ripe tamarind in 1/3 cup of warm water. Compress the tamarind in your palm and then measure 1 tablespoon. Squeeze the tamarind with your fingers to dissolve the soft fruit. Then gather the remaining undissolvable pulp, and squeeze once again to extract the juice, now discard the pulp. Add more tamarind or water as necessary to make 1/4 cup of concentrate. The tamarind juice is one of the ingredients that adds to the sour flavour of your green papaya salad. You can therefore control the degree of sourness by either squeezing in more tamarind, or by diluting the juice with more water.
You will often get processed tamarind in your local grocery store or supermarket. This is ready to use and all you need to do is dissolve half tablespoon in 1/3 cup of warm water. This is basically a concentrate of tamarind and some of you might find 1 whole tablespoon to be too sour.
Cutting other vegetables: The tomatoes you choose for your papaya salad should be red ripe tomatoes and around 2 inches wide in diameter. Do not use tomatoes that are either very green or too ripe and soft. Wash the tomatoes clean before proceeding. Slice the tomatoes to get around 4 to 5 slices from each tomato. The beans for the Thai green papaya salad are the long beans also referred to as ‘snake beans’. You should pick fresh beans for making your salad and one way to check the freshness is to bend and break one edge of the bean. Try bending an inch from one end, as you continue bending, the bean should break with a cracking sound. Stale beans will continue bending as they stretch and are not really crisp. Wash the long beans and chop into pieces that are around 1 1/2 inches long.
Using the mortar: Wash the mortar and pestle clean. The mortar is generally cut from a piece of rock and can be quite heavy. Take care when lifting it and place it carefully in the wash basin as the basin could crack with the impact. The mortar needs to be placed on a sturdy table, platform or on the floor. Expert cooks in Thailand generally place a heavy folded cloth under the mortar (between the table and the mortar). This provides a firmer grip to the mortar as it is bound to shake by the impact of the strokes from the pestle. The cloth also helps to absorb part of the sound that the pounding generates.
Add the chillies, garlic and dried shrimps in the mortar. Now crush these ingredients in the mortar by firmly pounding with the pestle. Remember that none of these ingredients are really very hard so all you need to do is, to bring the pestle firmly on them. Big violent movements with the pestle are not required and will only generate a lot of sound and probably break the mortar! Keep pounding firmly till the ingredients have disintegrated and form a mixture. After that add the palm sugar and crush softly again.
The pounding is a major operation in preparing Thai green papaya salad. You need to pound straight down, towards the center of the mortar. If your ingredients seem to be sticking to the inner side walls of the mortar, use a spoon to scrape them off and direct them towards the center of the mortar. Do not hit the pestle against the inner side walls of the mortar, this could break the mortar or get it off balance and cause it to tip on it’s side!
Adding the papaya: Having made the ingredients in the mortar into one mixture, it is now time to put the main ingredient of your green papaya salad into the mixture. Add the chopped, grated or shreded papaya into the mortar. Also include the sliced tomatoes and pieces of snake beans at this time. Again, as an expert would do it, you need to keep pounding with the pestle as these vegetables are added to the mortar. Pound with medium strength, as we do not want these vegetables to disintegrate completely into a pulp. You will find that the volume of the preparation keeps reducing as the vegetables get crushed in the mortar. You can use the pestle or a large spoon to move the vegetables towards the center of the mortar, this is required to ensure that all portions get evenly crushed. Do not hit the pestle against the inner side walls of the mortar, this could break the mortar or get it off balance and cause it to tip on it’s side!
Now add some lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind juice. Stir with a spoon and pestle. Again crush very lightly to ensure that the vegetables absorb the spice and flavor of the chilies and garlic.
Adding final ingredients: The peanuts for this green papaya salad need to be roasted and ideally unsalted. Some cooks prefer to leave the peel on the peanuts whereas, others rub the peel off the roasted peanuts before using them. Pour some peanuts into the mortar at the end and the Thai papaya salad is now ready to serve. Scoop the salad from the mortar with a spoon and serve on a plate. The final dish will have some liquid in it and the dish should therefore have a little depth and not be very flat. The final taste should be a mixture of hot ( chilies ), sweet, salty and sour.
Green Thai papaya salad of all types should be eaten immediately after preparation. Fresh papaya salad feels crisp when you bite into it, this is because of the firm green papaya and the fresh long beans. Ideally it should not be stored, as leaving the papaya salad for a while will cause the water in the papaya and the beans to come out. This will make the salad soft and lifeless. The groundnuts would then soak in the water that is released and lose their own flavour.
The mortar used to crush the ingredients and make the green papaya salad is made of clay in recent times. The older versions of the mortar were made from rock and were much heavier as compared to the clay mortars. Since the inner side of the mortar would be quite rough, it is important that you wash the mortar thoroughly each time you finish making your papaya salad. It is also a good idea to wash the mortar each time you start using it.
The wooden pestle would show signs of splitting after repeated usage. Inspect the pestle each time before use and discard it for a new one if, you notice splinters of wood being separated from the main pestle. The splinters can cause painful injury when washing the pestle and pieces of splinters in the green papaya salad is not something that you want.
One of the ingredients mentioned above for your green papaya salad is palm sugar. If palm sugar cannot be easily obtained, white sugar would be a good substitute. When selecting the green raw papaya for Thai papaya salad, select ones that are firm with a shine on the skin.
Traditionally, papaya salad in Thailand is eaten with sticky rice or grilled chicken. If you order your green papaya salad in an eating house, most places provide you with a small additional saucer that consists of a piece of fresh cabbage and few pieces of long beans (snake beans). Look carefully and you will also a find a few pieces of ice in the saucer.