Som Tam Thai

It’s incredible how much taste and flavour can impact one’s memories. Growing up in Southeast Asia for over a decade, I have had the opportunity to expand my palate and devour the cuisine of the region, but it wasn’t til I moved back to Canada that I really dove headfirst into my love for Thai cuisine. It’s funny that the best Thai food I’ve ever had can be found in two places (neither of which are in Thailand): first, at Chiang Mai Kitchen, a restaurant down a fairly nondescript cobbled path in Oxford, England. It’s housed in a 15th century university building that has been everything from a police station to a bookbinder to a tearoom and now, for over 24 years, a fantastic Thai Restaurant. The second place I’ve had exquisite Thai cuisine was here at work, made by my colleague Chef Darren Clay, whose life and travels took him through Southeast Asia for several years. In both instances, the hands who made this cuisine fuel their passion with both experience and memory, both of which I think are integral to keeping regional cuisines alive regardless of where you end up in the world. They certainly triggered my own memories from my childhood and directly influenced my dish today!

Thai cuisine is bright in both colour and flavour – the perfect balance of sweetness and acid, saltiness and umami. I chose to make this salad in particular since we’re in the height of summer, and whether you serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled, it’s absolutely delicious on its own or as a side dish at a picnic or on the dinner table. Enjoy!

Serves: 4 as a side salad

Ingredients

• 2 ½ cups green papaya, shredded into thin strips

• 1 carrot, shredded

• 10–12 shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 6 green chillies (or more, or less, depending on how spicy you like it)

• 2–3 long beans, blanched, cut into 2 in. lengths (similar length to the papaya)

• 4 cloves garlic

• 1 tsp palm sugar

• 1 tbsp fish sauce

• ½ tsp shrimp paste

• 1 ½ tbsp lime juice

• 1 handful roasted peanuts

Method

1. Sear the shrimp until their colour turns pink-orange – approximately 90 seconds-2 minutes per side depending on their size, and set aside.

2. In a mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic and chillies to form a paste. Toss in the papaya, carrot, and beans and lightly pound to soften and bruise the fruit, then transfer to a bowl with the shrimp.

3. In the same mortar and pestle, blend the palm sugar, shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice and peanuts.

4. Pour this dressing over the salad and stir to thoroughly combine.

5. Serve with a sprinkling of roasted peanuts overtop.

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