Monday, December 7, 2009

Som Tam - A Thai Taste Tradition

Som Tam is one of the most popular foods among Thai people for its fiercely spicy and sour flavors. Som Tam, which literally means "Sour Pounded", is a spicy salad made from a mix of fresh vegetables including shredded unripened papaya, yardlong beans and tomato, lime, peanuts & (in central Thailand) dried shrimp.

Som tam is derived from a traditional dish in Laos called tam mak hoong. The dish combines the four main tastes of Thai cuisine: sour lime, hot chile, salty fish sauce, and sweetness added by palm sugar.

Som Tam is unique that the spicy dressing and salad vegetables are pounded and mixed in the mortar using a pestle.

Here's a typical recipe for this unique Thai Dish.

About 2 cups shredded green papaya
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 ½ tablespoon palm sugar, if not available can substitute it with regular sugar
3 tablespoon lime juice
½ cups tomato, wedged
⅓ cup dried shrimp
¼ cup peanuts
10 green chilli
5 cloves garlic

Use motar and prestle to crush the chilli and garlic, add shrimps, continue crushing, add sugar, continue beating with the prestle, add the papaya, (continue beating), add fish sauce, (continue beating), add lime juice, (continue beating), add tomato, (continue beating), add peanuts, (more beating),,... you may want to add either sugar, fish sauce, or lime.

The final taste on the balance between sweet, (pepper) hot, salty, and sour. Thais tend to eat a very spicy version of the dish (Ped) - you may want to use less chili's (Mai Ped)

Serve with vegetables (cabbage, sting bean, napa,..).

Som Tam is good for your health that it contains no fat, low calorie and high vitamins. Enjoy!!

Eating Out in Thailand

Sometimes it feels like eating is a National Pastime in Thailand. Food is everywhere.

You can eat at luxury restaurants or small "mom & pop" Thai kitchens and you will experience the wonderful flavors that define South East Asia.

I tend to eat like a local. On rare occasions, I'll opt for "farang (Western) food" but most days I prefer the taste, convienence and price of Thai food.

About one block from my Condo is a parking lot next to a 7/11 Store. Every day about 4pm about a dozen food vendors set up their stalls and cook their wares.

Three or four times a week I walk over and buy Som Tam (Spicy Papaya Salad), Pla (Fish), Kai (Chicken) and rice. Dinner usually runs between 20 - 50 Baht ( .60 cents to $1.80).

Think of it as an Open Air Thai Food Court.

Some westerners are wary about "eating on the street". Personally, in four years on eating like a local, I've never had any gastric difficulties.

If you come to Thailand, don't miss out on the wonderful food available here!!