Faux Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

The first time I tried Som Tam was on an island off the coast of Honduras. A tiny little restaurant with amazing thai food made fresh to order. The flavors were full, rich and fresh.

I had the sudden craving to reproduce the salad and had all the makings for it expect the papaya. Although I’m sure I could’ve found unripe papaya… I didn’t have a time, dinner was quickly approaching.

I would argue that the flavors of the papaya salad do not actually hinge on the papaya, but rather the unripe papaya acts much more as a vessel for the dressing and herbs bright flavors.

I figured I could reproduce it it using another neutral flavored item, so I opted for spiraled zucchini. While not perfectly authentic, this recipe will satisfy your craving for Som Tam, or just be a delicious flavorful and tangy salad if you’ve never tried it before.

Some ingredients here are unique and not necessarily a staple in a kitchen (if you don’t make thai food often) I think a few things could be skipped, but what makes this dish special are the nuanced unique flavor combinations of all the ingredients.

TIP: When looking for shrimp paste – carefully check ingredients, many brands contain MSG and other additives you may not want. 

SomTam.jpgServing size: 4 

Ingredients for Dressing

  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • 1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Shrimp Paste
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar (Or Palm, or Brown, Etc)
  • 1 – 2 Thai Chilis Seeds and Ribs Removed (2 will make it pretty spicy)
  • 2 T Water
  • 1 Small Shallot (or half a large one)

Ingredients for Salad
(You can mix it up here depending on what you have available)

  • 2 Shredded Carrots
  • 1/2 a Small Purple Cabbage Shredded
  • 4 Small spiralized (or shredded) Zucchini
  • 1 Shredded Cucumber
  • Optional: Crushed Peanuts/Nuts
  • 1 small handful of Mint chopped fine
  • 1 small handful Cilantro chopped fine


  1. Combine all of the Dressing ingredients in a small blender and blend well. Let sit while you prep the rest of the salad.
  2. Prepare your food processor to shred. Add your carrot, cabbage and Cucumber to the food processor.  Add shredded veggies to a glass or non reactive large bowl.
  3. Add Mint and Cilantro to your large bowl.
  4. Spiralize your zucchini (or shred if you do not have a spiralizer). Add into the bowl of veggies, combine well.
  5. Top your shredded veggies with your salad dressing and mix well to combine.
  6. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.