The range of ingredients available for local dishes in Thailand vary depending on the latitude of the country. Yet Som Tam is so popular that in Thailand you can buy a special pestle and mortar to make it and the base recipe is the same everywhere.
What is most important for this dish is that the ingredients are pounded to release the juices that mix to form the luscious sauce. Do not pound the mixture too hard so that the ingredients and papaya are broken into small pieces. The juices should start to come out of the ingredients, while the sugar and salt needs to have dissolved.
1 large green or underripe papaya
4 birdseye chillis
80 cm long beans
50 gms peanuts
2 tblsp fish sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 tblsp Palm (or caster) sugar Mixed with a splash of hot water to dissolve
½ tsp salt
8 dried prawns
In a pan of boiling water add the tomato and boil on a high heat until the skin starts to peel. Remove from the water, remove the skin and leave to cool. Squeeze the tomato firmly to remove the majority of the juice and roughly chop.
In a dry frying pan roast the peanuts, shaking regularly until they are an even golden brown colour. Finely slice the chillies and roughly chop the beans.
Cut the papaya in half and remove the stone. Using a ½ cm grater grate the papaya into a sieve over the sink to drain excess liquid.
Cut the limes into quarters. Roughly chop the chillies, garlic , dried prawns and beans. Using a large pestle and mortar (or sturdy mixing bowl and rolling pin) pound the chillies, garlic, beans, lime , sugar and a small handful of the papaya (around 1/5) for 5 minutes. Add the peanuts, salt and fish sauce before pounding the Som Tam for another few minutes. Mix in the tomato and remaining papaya well before serving immediately.
Serve Som Tam into whatever container you have available take it with you whereever you go, or eat with other people with other dishes for maximum enjoyment!