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Papaya Pok Pok

The delightful dish Som Tam is ubiquitous to Northern Thai cuisine. Just about every street vendor, open air market, and restaurant serves Som Tam and if they don’t, they can direct you to the nearest place that does, regardless of where in Northern Thailand you are!

Otherwise known to foreigners as ‘Papaya Pok Pok’, owing to the sound of its preparation with a pestle and mortar, Som Tam is a delicious crunchy salad made from green beans, tomato, dried shrimp, garlic, fresh lime juice, Thai bird eye chillies, carrots, roasted peanuts and green (unripe) and julienne-style papaya fruit (paw paw). Owing to its incredible popularity amongst locals and foreigners alike, there are fresh food vendors selling Som Tam to be found in every single marketplace, be it open-air or indoors; during the day or night.

Half the fun of enjoying Som Tam is watching its preparation! Its appropriate nickname ‘Papaya Pok Pok’ is derived from the sound of the pestle and mortar thumping away at the whole garlic cloves, chillies, palm sugar, tamarind juice, and various other spices that are used to create the flavour and aromatic base of this Asian dish.

The use of fermented fish sauce in the dish is a deeply-entrenched habit in Thai cooking, and Som Tam doesn’t escape this addition, so it may take some time to wrap your taste buds around its pungent aroma. Yet, behind the stigma of a sauce created from fermenting fish, there is an incredible palate of fresh, zingy, and spicy flavours, with crunchy textures to be greatly relished, synonymous with the taste of Asian cuisine.

Many Thais love their Som Tam with “bpuu” (phonetic pronunciation), or fresh raw river crabs. Many vendors prepare Som Tam this way, so if you don’t make any specifications, you might find yourself getting raw crab on your plate!

You can order everything you need to make this refreshing Thai dish at home on our 1-click recipe page.


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