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Courgette Som Tam salad

Som Tam is a Thai green papaya salad. A green unripe papaya is expensive and hard to find in UK. The whole dish was reinvented with a more accessible ingredient list but still keeping the authenticity of the taste.

Thai green papaya salad using courgette.
Thai green Courgette som tam salad

Traditionally, SomTam involves pounding ingredients gently using a large clay pestle and mortar to crush, release and mix the flavours. Dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, palm sugar, snake beans or french beans and cherry tomatoes are key ingredients. It is a popular street food in Thailand and is commonly eaten for lunch along with BBQ chickens and sticky rice.

I created this dish while sailing in the Adriatic sea with limited provisions on board. In place of a green papaya, I used courgettes, rocket salad and cherry tomatoes then flavoured with garlic, fish sauce, chopped chilli and lime juice. A sprinkle of crushed walnuts to finish.

Instead of traditionally pounding it with a pestle and mortar, I just gently squeezed everything together in a large salad bowl then dressed it just before serving. Courgette is a lot softer in texture than an unripe green papaya. So a few gentle squeezes leave a perfect crunch to this additive, explosive hot Thai salad.


Ingredients ( serve 4 as a starter )

  • 1 large courgette shredded

  • a large handful of cherry tomatoes halved

  • a handful of green bean cut in 2 inch long

  • 1 red chilli finely chopped ( more if prefer)

  • 1 tbsp of crushed roasted peanuts or any nuts of choice

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce

  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste

  • 1 garlic clove minced

  • 1 tbsp palm or coconut sugar

  • 1 tbsp lime juice


In a large salad bowl, put together the shredded courgette, cherry tomatoes and beans.

With your hands, squeeze the vegetables together until the cherry tomatoes burst and release some juice. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.

For the dressing

Combine chilli, fish sauce, tamarind paste, garlic, lime juice and sugar together. Stir until the sugar dissolves and well blended.

Adjust the taste to your liking. It should be a well balanced of three key flavours- salty, sour and sweet with a spicy kick.

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