In Thailand, where the flavors of spicy, sour, sweet and salty come together in pure harmony––attaining good balance is the goal. Thai green papaya salad exemplifies this balance.
In order to balance these nuances in a dish, you must be familiar with your ingredients. You want to create a blend of textures, aromas, flavors and temperatures that make each ingredient shine.
Here you have crunchy green papaya, soft fragrant herbs, spicy chiles, salty fish sauce, sour lime and a dash of sugar for sweetness.
Thai food is vibrant, light, nutritious and delicious. And that is exactly how I would describe Thai green papaya salad.
It is customary, when preparing this dish, to pound the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle. If you do not have one, you can make the dressing in a food processor and pour it over the papaya, or chop the ingredients with a knife and mix them together in a bowl.
Thai Green Papaya Salad
Since I have a shellfish allergy I do not make this salad with dried shrimp. If you want yours to be more authentic, add a pinch of dried shrimp to pound up with the other ingredients for the dressing. You can also use palm sugar instead of monk fruit sweetener here for authenticity. Monk fruit sweetener is lower glycemic and is touted as a "healthier" sugar.
- 1 each Green Papaya approx. 1 1/2 lbs
- 4 each Scallions sliced thin
- 1/2 bunch Cilantro leaves
- 1/2 bunch Mint leaves
- 1/2 bunch Basil leaves
- 1/2 cup Roasted & salted peanuts coarsely ground
- 1 each Shallot sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic smashed
- 1 each Chinese Long Bean (or 2 green beans) chopped
- 1 each Red chili sliced
- 1 pinch Sea Salt
- 1 pinch Monk fruit sweetener
- 1 each Lime juiced
- 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Peel the papaya and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Either grate the papaya using a box grater or julienne it with a mandoline.
In a large bowl toss together the shredded papaya, scallion, herbs and peanuts.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the shallot, garlic, long bean, chili, salt and sugar into a paste. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Pour the dressing over the papaya salad, toss to combine and serve immediately.
This salad can be held in the refrigerator and eaten later, but the papaya will start to soften and lose its crunch.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.