SOM TUM

    Som tum or papaya salad is Thai regular cuisine which is now worldwide. Traditionally, it is a type of Northeast Thais’ favorite. North and Northeast Thais call it ‘tum som’.

    Tum som or som tum preparation is very simple. The main ingredients are a green papaya, spices, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce or a condiment of fermented fish. First, peel a papaya and clean it. Then, chop the papaya in lengthways and then cut it into short strips. Next, use a pestle and mortar to crush spices and garlic finely. After that, put in papaya strips and combine all the ingredients together. Sliced tomatoes and string beans can also be added. Then add lime juice and fish sauce to one’s liking. For the real Northeast taste, a condiment of fermented fish or pla ra is preferred to fish sauce. Sometimes both of them are added to the dish. Som tum can be eaten with sticky rice and other dishes such as grilled catfish, grilled chicken and so on.

     Northeast tum som has become popular in many parts of Thailand because there are many Northeast people working and living everywhere, especially in Bangkok. That is the reason why som tum is enormously popular. However, it is now adapted to the Central Thais’ taste. For example, sugar, roast peanuts and dried shrimps are added to flavor it. Besides, fish sauce is used instead of the condiment of fermented fish.This som tum with sweeter taste is called tum Thai. For some recipe, fermented fish field crabs are also added to flavor the dish.

     Som tum is made of not only papayas, but also other green fruits such as jackfruits, mangoes, and star gooseberries.

     Because of its unique taste, som tum is now the desired cuisine served in every first-class hotel. It is not only popular in Thailand, but it is also well-known in many other countries. During the Vietnam war, sam turn started becoming popular among American soldiers in service in the military base of Thailand. After that, they made it khown to other people in the US and other countries.

Translator : Rujira Suwannoy
5 November 1999
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