This delicious spicy green papaya salad is claimed as an innovation of the Lao people, which was introduced to central Thailand and the rest of the world by the Lao/Isan migrants moving to Bangkok to seek work. Variations of the dish are found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and as well as in the West, where it is more commonly known by its Thai name. (- Wikipedia)
Before I had ever tried this salad, I assumed Thai papaya salad sounded too sweet, but in actuality this is more of a sweet/sour/umami thing, with a kick of spice. It's not sweet from the papaya though, because you use a green papaya which is unripe. These can be tough to find, but if you have an Asian grocer nearby, it should be easy to get one - or talk to your grocer and see if they can give you a suggestion.
I first made this salad for a delicious dinner party entree and topped it with seared flank steak, marinated in fish sauce, lime juice, and chopped garlic.
The traditional version uses chopped peanuts on top, and involved some shrimp paste or dried shrimp but for this paleo version I omitted the peanuts and used our delicious pili nuts for their buttery crunch.
Som Tam Papaya Salad
First, heat some olive oil in a skillet. Toss in half of your fresh basil and fry low until crunchy and set aside to cool. On VERY low, toss pili nuts for a minute in the skillet to lightly toast.
In a mortar and pestle, or just a bowl, mix garlic, chilis, and sugar, to form a paste.
Squeeze in lime juice, then add fish sauce, and mix everything well.
In a large bowl, mix shredded papaya, cooked green beans, halved cherry tomatoes, and some sliced fresh basil. Pour sauce over mixture and mix well.
After plating, sprinkle with fried basil and pili nuts before serving.
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