Believe me when I say that EVERY Thai eats Som Tam; it is a national treasure! There will be Som Tam served up somewhere in the vicinity, in Thailand: in a shop, or on a mobile motorbike stand, or carried on a bamboo frame (I'll take some photos and post at a later date). It originates from Isaan, in the north-east, which is renowned for it's good food by all Thais across the nation.
It is usually served with sticky rice (khao niao) which you dip into the sauce to soak it up and eat alongside grilled chicken (gai yang) or BBQ catfish (bplaa yang) on skewers - alongside raw cabbage, thai basil (hor la pa), green beans... I have discovered that these vegetables are important as if you eat a particularly spicy bite, quickly eating the vegetables helps to cool you down!
Its main ingredient is raw green papaya and the strength of this unripe fruit can not be underestimated; it contains a POWERHOUSE of nutrients. The rest of the ingredients are thrown in to taste; my partner likes more lime as he likes things with a sour kick (bpriao), he'll have 4 or 5 chillies, I have 2, our daughter has none - you can bash them separately and add to individual servngs
1 green papaya
1 quarter of a carrot
1 long green bean
1 handful of dried shrimp (if you have)
1 handful of toasted peanuts
palm sugar (alternatively, brown)
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
juice of half a lime
1. Grate the papaya and carrot, slice the tomatoes into slim segments, squeeze the lime, toast the peanuts, slice the green bean into 5cm segments.
2. The order in which you mix the ingredients is important - you want the garlic and chilli to mix evenly and infuse their flavours throughout, so throw them in the mortar first and bash with the pestle.
3. Throw in the green beans, shrimp and nuts bashing and mixing with a spoon as you go; next the tomato; then the sugar, sauce and lime.
4. Add the papaya and carrot, mix and mash.
Here's ours with no carrot.
And see below on why this is such a fun recipe for kids (and adults!)