I’m celebrating spring with this recipe from my book, Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking: 125 Real Thai Recipes. This is actually a new edition of my book, Real Vegetarian Thai, which appeared in 1997 and went out of print in 2013. If you have Real Vegetarian Thai on your shelf, you are good to go, because this book is the same one, albeit with about 12 new recipes, metric and imperial measurements, and a number of color photos to inspire you to get cooking.
Ideal for Spring, this sparkling tangle of shredded unripe papaya, juicy tomatoes, shallots and garlic is infused with an incendiary combination of lime juice, palm sugar and chiles. Known by its Laotian name, som tum, this rustic, intensely flavored dish is made from simple ingredients that epitomize the cuisine and spirit of northeastern Thailand.
This book is a new edition of my long-time bestselling cookbook, Real Vegetarian Thai, published in 1997 and out in the marketplace until 2013. It had a great, long run, but its time was up, and I am thrilled and grateful that Robert Rose, Inc., publisher of my cookbook, 300 Best Stir-Fry Recipes, decided to publish this new bright new edition. It has a fresh, handsome layout, metric as well as imperial measurements, a dozen new recipes (you know you want some kale salad with Thai flavors…), and a beautiful bouquet of color photographs.
Get the Book!
From refreshing salads and savory soups to flavorful and spicy mains and side dishes to the wonderfully refreshing Thai Iced Tea, this definitive cookbook offers 125 delectable recipes for every meal and occasion. Vegans will be pleased with the recipes since dairy products are virtually unused. The ever-popular eggs as an ingredient are usually left whole in these recipes, making substitutions and omissions easy. In most of the recipes that use eggs, Nancie has provided adaptations for vegans.
I’m not a vegetarian; I wrote this book because I knew vegetarians as a group love Thai food and, especially back in 1997, had a great incentive to cook at home since the world of restaurants and food-to-go was extremely meat-centered. It’s better nowadays, with many more options available for people who do not eat meat, or eat vegan, or gluten-free, or follow other intentional meatless ways of cooking and eating. But it’s still less expensive, satisfying, and for me, a source of pride and pleasure to cook at home, and I love sharing what I know about Thai food with everyone.
- 2 fresh green serrano chiles or 1 fresh green jalapeño
- 1 tbsp coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves) (15 mL)
- 1 tbsp coarsely chopped shallots (15 mL)
- 1 small hard, green unripe papaya, peeled and finely shredded (about 2 cups/500 mL)
- 9 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths
- 2 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar (10 mL)
- 1⁄2 tsp salt (2 mL)
- 2 tbsp vegetable stock, store-bought (30 mL)
- 1⁄2 lime, quartered lengthwise
- 9 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Mortar and pestle (see Note below)
- In a large heavy mortar, combine chiles, garlic and shallots. Grind and pound with a pestle until everything is broken down but not completely mushy. Use a spoon to scrape down the sides occasionally and mix everything together well.
- Add papaya and pound until the stiff shreds become limp and soft, about 3 minutes. Use the spoon to scrape and turn the mixture over as you work.
- Add green beans and pound to bruise. One at a time, add sugar, salt and stock, pounding a little after each addition. Squeeze in juice from each piece of lime and then add pieces of squeezed lime to the mortar as well. Add tomatoes and pound another minute, turning as before as the tomatoes release some of their liquid. Pound more gently so that you do not get splashed.
- Taste sauce in bottom of the mortar and adjust the seasonings (there should be an interesting balance of sour, hot, salty and sweet). Using a slotted spoon, transfer salad to a small serving platter. Drizzle on some of the sauce remaining in the mortar and serve at once.
If you do not have a heavy Thai-style mortar and pestle, here is a shortcut version: To crush and bruise shredded papaya, place in a big plastic bag on your cutting board, leaving the bag open. Pound with a cooking mallet or rolling pin, working it until all the shreds are limp and bruised. Transfer to a bowl. In a blender or mini processor, combine chile, garlic, shallots, sugar, salt and stock and blend until fairly smooth. Toss with papaya. Add green beans and pound to bruise. Add tomatoes and squeeze juice from lime quarters over salad, tossing in lime pieces when you are done. Using your hands, toss again, squeezing salad to crush tomatoes so they release some of their juice as you mix in the lime. Transfer to a deep serving platter and serve at once.
We’re also increasingly aware of how much we need to choose a healthful way of eating, which to me means less meat, and a lot more fruits and vegetables. However you eat, vegetables and fruits are on the Yes! list, and Thai people cook and eat fruits and vegetables because they love them and enjoy them and appreciate their possibilities, not because they should, or because they have to in order to get dessert. (Fellow baby boomers, I’m looking at you…)