Green papaya salad is a refreshing, tasty side or appetizer with other Thai and Laos dishes. Easy to make & with great sweet-spicy-umami flavors.
I know when I shared larp (Laos chicken salad) a couple weeks ago I said it was great served with green papaya salad, and I keep meaning to share a recipe for it so here it is.
While to me it makes the perfect side to larp, green papaya salad is also great as an appetizer or alongside other Thai/Laos food. It is easy to make and has such fantastically fresh flavors, that you can spice up or down as suits your taste.
Green…or not so much
I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it hard to find green papaya (which is just unripe papaya) – it seems the supermarkets all assume you need help in ripening them so they are part-way along, or maybe they just become that way with travel since they’re not exactly local here.
However, I find using the least ripe papaya I can find works just as well, even if the salad is no longer ‘green’ and is a little sweeter. You can also use unripe mango which is similarly delicious (and try this Cambodian green mango salad for a slightly different set of flavors, also great!).
I used one red chili here to give a bit of bite to the salad without being too much, but you can easily increase or decrease the heat factor as you prefer. If you had a mandolin, I’m sure it would make light work of making papaya matchsticks. But since I don’t, I cut by hand and even this doesn’t take too long to prepare.
It may not be quite as neat, but I quite like the more rustic look. Especially, along with the slightly chunky tomato pieces. Plus riper papaya tends to disintegrate on you if cut too thin.
See how easy this is to make in this short video:
I have made this without shrimp paste when I haven’t had any, and just increased the fish sauce, but I do think the shrimp paste adds a little more depth of flavor, even if it’s not exactly the best smelling or looking ingredient.
All of the flavors combine so deliciously in this green papaya salad that I could eat it over and over. And being so easy, there’s really no excuse, as I’m sure you’ll discover if you make it yourself. Healthy, full of flavor, light and easy. What more could you need.
A classic side for Laos and Thai food, this easy salad is a delicious mix of sweet and spicy.
- 10 1/2 oz papaya 300g, approx, unripe/green ideally, or unripe mango
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 clove garlic roughly chopped
- 1 red chili roughly chopped (or more/less to taste)
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 1 lime juice ie from 1 lime
- 1 tsp fish sauce
Peel and deseed the papaya and cut into matchstick pieces (either with a mandolin or roughly by hand).
Ideally with a pestle and mortar, crush together the shrimp paste, sugar, garlic and chili until the garlic and chili are largely a paste. Halve the cherry tomatoes and crush them slightly with the garlic-chili paste so that they are breaking up slightly but not falling apart.
Add the lime juice and fish sauce, pour over the papaya and mix through. Check the taste and add a little more lime juice or fish sauce, to taste.
Try these other Laos/Thai favorites:
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