This dish is a classic that contains all the contrasting flavors that make Thai food so great: spicy, sweet, salty and sour all in the same bite. I’ve had it so hot I had to drink a glass of milk (or go into some sort of chili shock) and I’ve had it as a refreshing side dish to cut the heat of a jungle curry.
Peanuts work great for cutting the heat. Thais serve pulverized roasted peanuts to sprinkle over dishes that are otherwise too hot to eat.
Green papaya can be found at Asian markets (along with fish sauce, palm sugar, and tamarind).
This version is from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey.
1 small green papaya
1 teaspoon palm sugar
Pinch of chopped garlic
Pinch of finely chopped red bird’s eye chili
5 x 10 cm pieces of snake bean or 5 French beans, halved lengthways
A few roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Pinch of chopped dried shrimp
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamarind water
4 cherry plum tomatoes, halved
Juice of 1 lime
Peel the papaya and shred it using a mandoline, shredder or a large, sharp knife. Work your way round the fruit until you get to the core and seeds, which you discard. Moisten the palm sugar with a little cold water.
Put the garlic, red chili and green beans into a mortar or mixing bowl and lightly bruise with the pestle or the end of a rolling pin. Add the sugar, peanuts, shrimp, fish sauce, tamarind water, tomatoes and lime juice and bruise everything once more, turning the mixture over with a fork as you do so.
Add a good handful of the shredded papaya, about 50g, turn everything over and bruise one last time. Serve straight away.
Combine fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar in a bowl. Add chilies and use a pestle to pound chilies. shred green papaya. Mix with sauce.