Today we had a planned full day power cut on Koh Lanta so we decided to make our late morning classes a cooking class so we could stay in the cooler reception area. We chose to make the Thai dish som tam which means papaya salad. It's a very delicious dish that combines many flavours - spicy, sour, sweet and salty.
Many foreigners believe that there is no papaya in som tam as thay can't find the ripe orange papaya flesh in the dish. But the reason why they can't find it is because we use the papaya before it has ripened, the flesh is then white and crispy.
Som tam is traditionally supposed to be very spicy and Thai people can put 10-20 chilies in one salad. Some foreigners like it that way too but many prefer it a little less spicy. But even if you ask for "not spicy" a Thai chef might put 3-5 chilies in your dish anyway as that is considered to be not spicy at all. If you want it less spicy it's better to specify the number of chili fruits you want. Start with one and work your way up.
The standard papaya salad is made from green papaya, long green beans, tomatoes and peanuts with garlic, chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar as the flavoring. But there are many variations and common extra ingredients include carrots, corn, dried shrimps, fermented crabs and salty eggs. So feel free to improvise if you make your own som tam!