papaya salad and fried beef jerky

being Laotian i couldn’t have a food blog without mentioning papaya salad or tum mak hoong/som tam. it is a dish that defines me and what i would ask for if i could if i knew i was about to die. it is just one of those dishes that can not be eaten alone. i mean, of coarse you could but it just wouldn’t be the same. if papaya salad is made in our home, you can find us all sitting around and enjoying it together.
traditionally, this dish is prepared with a mortar and pestle with all the ingredients thrown in and pounded together. i’ve tasted it at restaurants that don’t do this and it just isn’t the same! every Laotian usually has one in there home, my mom actually brought hers all the way from laos and we’ve never had to replace it in the past 25 + years. you can also make other traditional sauces in this mortar pestle but that’s another post.
ingredients:
shredded green papaya
1-2 cloves garlic
a few pinches of salt to taste
1 Tbsp sugar
1-3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste
half the juice of a lime or lemon
1-4 thai birds eye chili
padak (fermented fish) i added this ingredient but i always ask my family not to add it because i can’t stand the smell! i guess i’m a little too americanized but it is traditional to use this.
half a tomato sliced up (we use tiny tomatoes growing in our garden, any tomato will do!)
small dried shrimp (optional)
crushed toasted peanuts (optional to top off with)
1. throw your garlic in with salt and smash it up a bit and throw out the garlic skin

2. add in your chilis and smash it up with the garlic

3. put your shrimp paste in with some of the fish sauce and mix the paste and fish sauce so the paste gets diluted a bit

4. add everything else and pound tasting in between and adjusting it to your taste (i love mines to be very spicy with lots of lime)
variations:
while most people use green papaya you can also make it with other vegetables. my dad loves to make it with shredded cucumber or long beans. you can always do a mixture too, i love the papaya with long beans.
what to eat it with:
cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, rice noodles, sticky rice, pork rinds, fried chicken, fried beef jerky
eating it with vegetables like cabbage help with the spiciness of the dish. i had mines with fried beef jerky that my mom made. you basically get your meat sliced thin, marinate it in soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. dry it for a few days and fry it in oil when ready to eat. maybe i’ll make a post about this later.
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