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World's Best Green Papaya Salad Recipe

Updated on June 21, 2016
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Buster began cooking as a wee pup by watching his mother fix the kibble. He was hooked. He loves preparing—and writing about—food.

Green papaya salad!
Green papaya salad!

An Incredibly Addictive Salad

I spent this past January in Southeast Asia -- Thailand, Laos and Cambodia -- and was introduced to a green papaya salad that is a staple of the region's cuisine. They call it som tum.

It is absolutely delicious, and quite addictive. I couldn't get enough of it.

I ordered it at many restaurants (almost nightly) and was intrigued by the variety of ways it was prepared.

The following recipe makes an incredible green papaya salad.

Variations on a Theme

This dish is perfect for vegans.

Want to add chicken? It's easy. Simply prepare a chicken breast in your favorite way and add it to the top of the salad.

I prefer to add calamari, which is a common way that Green Papaya Salad is served in California. The recipe for how to do it is down below.

The Ingredients

2 large green papaya

2 large carrots

1 1/2 cloves garlic

2 scallions

2 small hot peppers (Thai peppers, or you can use serrano) omit if you don't like heat!

1 tsp. salt


1/4 cup of fish sauce

1/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup lime juice (from freshly squeezed lime)

Cilantro, to garnish

(Roasted cashews or peanuts to garnish, if desired)

Make The Salad Dressing First

Into a salad bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. I stir it occasionally as I prepare the salad using the directions below.

Making it first allows the sugar to dissolve while you make the salad.

(Note: if this is the first time for you to make a dish using fish sauce, don't let the odd smell put you off. It disappears once you add the dressing to the salad ingredients, and of course gives a fantastic flavor!)

How To Make Green Papaya Salad

Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin from the green papaya and carrots. Cut off stem ends of green papaya and carrots.

Grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater.

USING A KNIFE, julienne the green papaya into pieces the size of match sticks. (This part is a bit tedious, but absolutely necessary. If you grate it on the grater you end up with a mushy mess.)

Slice the scallions thinly, including the green tops.

Finely mince the garlic, then mash into a paste with the side of a knife.

If using, slice the small hot peppers into tiny rounds.

Add all of the vegetables to the dressing in the bowl, then toss.

Let the salad sit for about an hour, for the flavors to meld. This resting period is important to creating a fully rounded flavor.

Think you don't have enough dressing for the vegetables? Just wait. As the salad sits (I put it in the refrigerator) the dressing will draw out moisture from the vegetables, and you'll soon see lots of liquid in the bottom. Every 15 minutes or so I fold the vegetables and the dressing together.

Serve in bowls, garnished with cilantro and cashews.

You're going to love this salad!

Green Papaya Salad with Calamari

The Calamari

One lb. fresh calamari -- this will easily serve two people

Wash the calamari carefully, including the body tubes and tentacles.

Freshly Washed Calamari

This is what the calamari looks like once it has been cleaned, washed and is ready for poaching.
This is what the calamari looks like once it has been cleaned, washed and is ready for poaching.

How to Prepare the Calamari

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. How much salt? When you taste it, it should taste like the ocean. This means: a lot of salt.

Drop the calamari into the boiling brine for approximately 30 seconds.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop up the calamari and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Blot away any extra liquid.

Reserve two tablespoons of the salad dressing, and toss with the calamari.

Add calamari to the top of the salad, and serve. Enjoy!


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