Sunday, September 29, 2013

Carrot Som-Tam - Spicy Thai Salad with Snap Beans

This is one of my all-time favourite Thai dishes - spicy, sour, sweet, crunchy, and very refreshing on a hot summer day.  It's one of those dishes that when you order it in Thailand, they ask you if you're sure you want it because it's just so goddamn spicy.  I say:  BRING IT ON.  But bring it on with a side of rice, otherwise it's suicide.

Traditionally, som-tam is made by pounding the ingredients together in a giant mortar and pestle.  It actually means "sour pound" in Thai.  It's also typically made with green papaya, which is plentiful in Thailand, but not so much in North America.  As such,  I had resigned myself to eating it only at Thai restaurants, and to paying through the nose for it (it can be as much as $11 for a small one).   Recently, however, I learned that one can substitute carrots for the papaya with sterling (and cheap) results.  I should probably also mention that som-tam is made with dried shrimp and fish sauce, but I leave them out and find no shortage of flavour.

This season we've had carrots and string beans coming out the wazoo due to participation in a community garden.   This salad is the perfect way to use them up.  It's also delicious with sugar snap peas, so don't be afraid to make substitutions.  Adjust the spicy to your liking and serve with a side of steamed, preferably sticky rice.


1 tbsp fresh garlic
1 to 2 fresh chillies
1 tbsp lime juice (lemon doesn't work as well)
1 tsp palm sugar / maple syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce

1 cup carrots - julienned (I use a peeler with a julienne blade)
1 cup string beans, thinly sliced on the bias
1 or two small tomatoes
peanuts or cashews to garnish (optional)

  • Smash up the garlic and chillies in a mortar and pestle.  If you don't have one, mince/crush them.  Add the lime juice, sugar, and soy sauce and mix well.
  • Pour over the carrots and beans and mix well.  Garnish with tomatoes and peanuts/cashews if using. 

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