Tieland to Thailand

Quit Your Job – Sell Your Stuff – Travel Abroad

"We spent last year selling everything and paying off thousands in consumer debt, planning our wedding, and ultimately figuring a way out of the daily nine to five. Twelve months later here we are living a truly free and location-independent lifestyle, currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand"

Som Tum Thai: Green Papaya Salad

Som Tum Thai

The abundance of fresh ingredients is ever-present in Thai cuisine. A popular Thai dish that showcases fresh vegetables is som tum Thai (ส้มตำไทย), or green papaya salad. This is one of our personal favorites and can be found anywhere in Thailand from restaurants to food stalls.

Som tum prepared in a mortar and pestle.

Som tum Thai is a fantastic raw Thai salad often made of shredded unripe papaya, sliced tomatoes, raw green beans, peanuts, crushed dried mini shrimp, and fresh garlic. Carrots and green or purple cabbage may be included and add a pop of color. A sweet, salty, tangy sauce made of sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce completes the dish. It can be easily altered by leaving out an ingredient or two (no shrimp for vegetarians), but don’t be afraid to try it in its original form.

Some Like Som Tum  Hot!

Som tum in the making.

Som tum Thai can be served quite spicy. Vendors typically have a bowl of hot chilies to add to the dish and the customer can request how many chilies they want. Don’t be afraid to make it spicy! It may take a little coaxing to get the vendors to put in more than one chili for Western customers. We like three! The word for chili is prik. If you don’t want any chilies, say Mai ao prik. (I don’t want chilies.)

There are several variations to this popular Thai salad including:

  • Som tum bpoo is green papaya salad with whole baby salty crabs
  • Som tum talae is seafood papaya salad and often has a mixture of shrimp, baby crab, squid, and mussels
  • Som tum mamuang is green mango salad

How to Eat Som Tum

Som Tum Thai snack

Som tum can be eaten by itself, but often sticky rice is available in small bags and served alongside. Take a ball of rice the size of a quarter, make a slight indent with your thumb, and use it to pinch or scoop up the papaya salad. We recommend eating som tum with sticky rice because it cools your mouth and allows you to mop up the sauce. We enjoy pairing it with skewers of grilled chicken.

Som tum is so popular and easy to make that it seems almost every family, restaurant, and food stall has their own special recipe. No matter where you are in Thailand, there’s bound to be delicious som tum close by.


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Chris and Angela sold everything, paid off their debt, and left behind the nine-to-five lifestyle in the US. Today they live as full time expats in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Subscribe to their weekly Thailand Vlogs on Youtube! To see a full list of their blog posts all in one place check out the Archives. For more frequent updates follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Category: Food
  • Ryan S. Lekan says:

    I want to thank the both of you for this blog. I have enjoyed reading all of it. For the past 2 summers I have traveled and worked in Thailand in both the NGO world, at schools, tutoring privately, and a short time (1 week) position at a psychiatric hospital in Korat (Nakhon Ratchisima.) I LOVED every moment of all my experiences in Thailand. Your blog brings up many memories. Probably the greatest memories of all are the feelings the first time I went there and how the things about the Thai life that I questioned the most and didn’t know if I could be comfortable with are what made me fall in love with Thai life the most. These things are: taking a shower/bath the Thai way: pouring scoops of water on oneself; learning to “squat;” learning how to naturally beat the heat; especially, when you live with no A/C; and as this part of the blog talks about, experiencing the Thai food: Som Tum, Cow Neow, Larb, pad prik, and many others. (I really like Issan food and Som Tum, no matter what the main ingredient is.) Sorry now I’m going on a tangent, but the whole of this blog brings back so many happy memories.

    I have my bachelors in International Affairs and I just graduated with my masters in social work back here in the states. The next step is to make the big one: a move to Thailand. I really love it over there and I can tell that y’all do also – it shows in the way you talk about everything Thailand in your blog, including how you quit your jobs, how you lived back in the states, and how y’all live now.

    I wish you both all the best and I hope that our paths may cross physically in the future.

    June 20, 2014 at 10:59 AM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with visiting Thailand. It’s awesome that you are preparing yourself for the day in the near future that you finally make the move here. We’re glad you found us and that we sparked some good memories from the times you’ve visited. And the food… it would be hard to live here without loving the food, and more power to you for loving Isaan style! Good luck with everything and stay in touch.

      June 26, 2014 at 12:30 AM
  • Torsten says:

    This looks fantastic – thanks for sharing the recipe!

    I just followed you guys on Twitter so I can read more :)

    May 5, 2014 at 7:58 AM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      Thank you so much for reading, and thanks for the follow :)

      May 5, 2014 at 12:27 PM
  • Good Food Everyday says:

    Love it and make it very often !

    May 4, 2014 at 12:32 PM
  • Alicia-joy says:

    This looks -and sounds – really delicious. Glad you enjoyed it guys.
    Adding this one to my list of Thai foods to try when I am there. Can’t wait.

    May 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      Awesome! Glad we could show you something new for your trip :)

      May 4, 2014 at 1:17 PM
  • Lindy says:

    Haha, my first (and last) experience with this dish included expecting a vegetarian dish, tiny shrimp eyes looking at me, sitting at a small table in a dark street with cockroaches running & for some reason flying around, hitting boyfriend’s head and then the table. Didn’t like it too much… But it sure looks delicious on your photos.

    April 29, 2014 at 3:28 AM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      That’s horrible! It’s true that ambiance does have a huge effect on the meal itself… but flying cockroaches?! That gives us the heebie jeebies. Maybe a second chance is in order while it’s still sunny? It really is delicious :)

      April 29, 2014 at 9:31 AM
      • Lindy says:

        Yeah I guess I’ll try it again next time I’m in Thailand!

        April 29, 2014 at 2:44 PM
  • Samantha @mytanfeet says:

    I need to try this! Whenever I go for Thai Food I always think about getting it but then order my usual. Your pics look soo good

    April 28, 2014 at 9:40 PM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      Definitely give it a try! We never tried it back in the US, but we totally wish we would have been a little braver. The flavors are amazing :)

      April 28, 2014 at 9:52 PM
  • Tom says:

    one of my favorite dishes in Thailand

    April 28, 2014 at 3:39 PM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      It’s our go-to when we don’t want something too heavy :)

      April 28, 2014 at 5:03 PM
  • Vince says:

    It is definitely one of our favorites from the various food stalls around. And like you say, you can make it as spicy as you like. The vendors always raise an eyebrow when I ask for it with 3 or 4 chilies. They usually watch me eat it and are amazed that I like it and don’t run for the moat screaming and yelling.

    April 28, 2014 at 1:25 AM
    • Chris and Angela says:

      Hahah! Yes, every time we visit a new Som Tum vendor they confirm with us about 2 or 3 times…even if we ask in Thai :)

      April 28, 2014 at 1:16 PM

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