Som tum, I’m led to believe, is actually Laotian in origin. The salad of green papaya is actually quite common among a few countries in South East Asia. The Thai version flowed through from the north east of the country, bordering Laos*
So when the dish reached Central Thailand, it became, well, I guess bastardised hence the word Som Tum Thai (as opposed to Som Tum Lao). The main difference is the inclusion of sweetness by use of sugar and the addition of peanuts. Most som tum peddlers in Thailand will sell different varieties of som tum. This one is my favourite.
(clockwise from left: payaya and carrot, palm sugar, snake beans, tomato, lemon, roasted peanuts, dried prawns, chilli and garlic)
I’m not too sure referring to this dish as a salad does it justice. The vegetables and other ingredients are pounded in a pestle and mortar with seasonings (fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, tamarind) added one at a time while being pounded and churned. Like Josh said ‘it’s strange how you people beat the hell out of your salad.’
(fish sauce, tamarind paste and my awesome pestle and mortar)
I have this little gadget that slices the green payaya into strips which can be bought at Asian grocery store. I haven’t got a picture of it at the moment but I’ll get it up later. (more…)