Som Tam Lao – Laotian Papaya-Salad

Som Tam Lao – Laotian Papaya-Salad

Som Tam is a spicy papaya-salad dish that exists in many different variations and is popular in Laos as well as in Thailand.

The main component of this traditional dish are green unripe papayas, chili, garlic, lime that are crushed in a mortar. Afterwards palm sugar, fish sauce respectively Pla Raa and if required dried shrimps, fermented crabs, unsalted peanuts or long beans are added. Commonly, this room-warm salad is served with sticky rice and grilled chicken.

Especially in the Thai Isaan and the neighboring Laos, the Som Tam is characterized by a special spiciness and a pronounced interaction of fruity acidity, salty nuances and the subtle sweetness of palm sugar.

As unripe papaya outside Southeast Asia are often very expensive or difficult to obtain, the dish can also be made with other unripe fruits, such as mangoes and cucumbers, but also with carrots, kohlrabi or mung bean sprouts.


Ingredients for four portions:

  • a green unripe papaya (alternatively two green unripe mangos or two or three cucumbers)
  • two carrots
  • three to four long-beans
  • five to six cocktail tomatoes or two medium-sized vine tomatoes
  • four to five Thai Bird Eye chili (alternatively, of course, other types of chili can be used, depending on the desired sharpness)
  • four cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp Pla Raa of Ros Zäp
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar (alternatively brown sugar)
  • the juice of one lime



First peel the papaya with a peeler and halve once in length. It is best to scrape out the seeds with a tea or tablespoon and remove the whites thoroughly. Briefly rinse the papaya and pat dry. Then slice the pulp of the papaya and the carrots lengthways into thin strips on a raw food grater. Cut the long beans into pieces three to four centimeters long and quarter the cocktail tomatoes.

Peel the garlic and chop it roughly. Then core the chilies and chop them. Next, first pound the garlic and chilies well in the mortar to release the flavours contained therein. Now gently crush the sliced papaya, carrots and the chopped long beans in small portions with little pressure and stir the components repeatedly. Now add the quartered cocktail tomatoes and lightly press with the pestle and mix with the other ingredients.

Finally, add the palm sugar, Pla Raa and the lime juice, mix well. After the seasoning according to your own preference add extra lime juice or Pla Raa. So that the papaya salad can develop the entire variety of its flavour nuances, it is best to let the salad rest for half an hour.

To serve, the papaya salad is transferred from the mortar to a bowl. The salad should always be served with plenty of the resulting sauce. Sticky rice, rice noodles, grilled chicken and raw vegetables such as lettuce leaves, pak choi, snake beans and Thai basil are traditionally served as a side dish.