First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this particular post to my parents Dawn and Kevin Maitland, who are celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary today. They are currently dining in the same Italian restaurant we went for Hana’s pre-wedding dinner just a few months ago. What a special restaurant!
Second, and with no less enthusiasm, I would like to give a great HOLLA HOO to my wonderful best friend Ali Cluney who is celebrating his birthday today. I can’t quite recall how old he is. 80 maybe?
I wanted to ensure I posted today, as it’s a significant memory, not just for my Mother and Father and not just for Ali but for me personally. And what better post for what I wish to blab about than this unusual salad I made for me and my Mum just the other day- The Thai Som Tum. Aka, Papaya Salad!
Why is this meal significant to the memory I wish to record?
Well today, after working two jobs since February and saving all the pennies I can, I put my money down on a certain life-changing trip I’ve had in mind since December. Officially, come February 27th I will spend:
1 month in India, trekking the entirety
2 months in Port Elizabeth, South Africa working within a Game Ranger Internship
3 weeks in Botswana, Africa, building houses and what not
1 month in Surin, Thailand, looking after elephants.
Following this, my plan (at present) is to backpack to Vietnam, and from there fly to Australia where I will work/trek for a year!
Let me emphasise now that I have NEVER done anything like this. I was privileged as a child to go on some very special family holidays, but no one in my family has ever “travelled”. My brother-in-law, whose brain I will be picking soon enough, spent a year in Australia when he was 18, but that as far as my sources go. Now that it’s official and set in stone… I’m excited, scared, numb, confused, proud and all sorts of other emotions. But mainly happy!!!!!!
So, back to the recipe, which I made for me and my lovely Mum on Tuesday to prepare for an evening of mapping and planning and dreaming for the world. I’ve known Thailand has been on my Travel List for a while. Who could resist the food as it is, but then throw in caring for elephants?! I was putty!
Those of you who are rehearsed in making/eating Som Tum will spot the things I do “wrong” (or untraditionally) here, but I will tell you this; my ingredients sources were limited, I was excited as I was pretty sure I’d be booking my trip this week (correct!!) AND I had never had anything like this before… and LOVED it.
- 1 large (or two small) UNRIPENED Papaya. I could barely find papaya, much less unripened, but then I guess that goes with living in a predominantly white, unexotic town like Northampton. I did find Papaya though, and its ripeness gave a niiiice flavour. I feel the texture was achieved elsewhere (see rest of ingredients list) so don’t panic if yours is orange, it’s all good.
- 1 garlic clove
- 5 birdseye chillies
- A good bunch of string beans. I couldn’t find these either, so bought “traditionally sliced runner beans”. Cheers, Sainsbury’s!
- A fair handful of salted cashews (Mum loves these, so I could pretty much guarantee they were in the cupboard.)
- Nam Pla (fish sauce)
- A squeeze of runny honey
- A small squash of lime juice
- Dried Shrimp. Which SURPRISE SURPRISE I also couldn’t find! I substituted this with brown shrimp- small and succulent. It did the trick!
Let’s just pretend we’re in Thailand for one evening
- Chop your garlic and all but one of your birdseye chillies. Pop in a pestle and mortar and smush down.
- Now smash in your cashews and green beans (whatever variety you went with)
- Cut your papaya in half and remove the seeds and the goop (goop shouldn’t be an issue if you manage to get your hands on a ripe one). Fetch a zester and peel out nice long skinny pieces.
- Abandon the smasher (I forget which part of the pestle and mortar the smasher is) and fetch a teaspoon. Gently combine your papaya strips into the chilligarlicnutbean mix.
- Pour in a table spoon of nam pla, a tea spoon of honey and less than that of lime juice. Gently stir.
- Now dish onto a plate and top with your brown shrimp, a few more nuts and the remaining birdseye chilli- finely sliced.
Ok, so, I have been REALLY bad at remembering to take pictures of the food I intend to put on the blog lately. I just get too excited about eating! So what you see here is the half eaten version of the som tum I made. Let this simply be a testament to its deliciousness.
At least in this case I can say that in the future I promise a picture of a professional Som Tum to follow this one, be it made by me or eaten in one of the many places I dine during my stay in Thailand!!
In the meantime, here’s a youtube clip I found of someone making it right: