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Summer Stunner

by James O. Fraioli
Summer Stunner Thai Salad

By James O. Fraioli / Photography by Tucker + Hossler

The Pacific Northwest is home to many Thais, many of whom have opened restaurants and introduced our region to the bounty of delicious dishes that reflect their vibrant culture. Let’s celebrate this month with a bright, cheerful salad from Thailand: It’s filled with fresh colors and crunchy textures and brought to life with a sour-sweet-savory dressing spiked with fresh chili. Best of all, this summer dish is galley-friendly and ready to serve on your next voyage.

If you’re not familiar, rows of papaya trees grow along the Chao Phraya River plain of central Thailand. When not yet ripe, the green fruit is crisp, firm, and tangy. The Thai call this salad papaya som tum, literally a “sour pounded” salad, since the dish preparation requires the pounding of all the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle to release the juices and blend the flavors.

As with all ethnic cuisine, the more you veer from genuine ingredients, the further away you become from what makes this dish so special. Before you cast off, dip into your local Asian market to grab what you need.

This is a little salad, certainly not intended as an entrée. Pair it with some grilled lingcod, halibut, or spot prawns, and maybe a bowl of sticky rice. You’ll be transported to Thailand in no time—all while savoring some fresh fare found right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Thai Green Papaya Som Tum with Scallions, Mint & Nam Pla Vinaigrette

Serves 4

1 medium Thai green papaya, quartered and peeled

1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds

1 cup raw green beans, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

2 Thai bird chilies

1/3 cup peanuts, roasted

1/4 cup Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, or brown sugar

1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate

1 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons additional peanuts, chopped, for garnish

Cut the green papaya and carrots into 3-inch lengths and shred each piece with a mandolin or vegetable shredder with the medium julienne blade. Otherwise, simply grate using a hand-held, large-holed vegetable shredder. Place in a bowl and add the green beans.

In a large mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chilies together until smashed in little bits. Add the peanuts and pound into a chunky paste. Scrape the garlic peanut mixture into the bowl of papaya. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind to the mortar and pestle and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lime juice. Pour over the papaya and toss well, gently squeezing the papaya with the dressing for 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with additional peanuts. 

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