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I’m celebrating spring along with a particular gift it brings this year: My new cookbook, Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking: 125 Real Thai RecipesJust published by Robert Rose Inc., it 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.
Here’s a recipe for the beloved Thai salad known as som tum. Look for green, unripe papaya in Asian markets. If you can’t find it, try this same salad with shredded cabbage
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.
Nancie’s Thai-Style Green Papaya Saoad


2 fresh green serrano chiles or 1 fresh green jalapeño 2
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) 1
9 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) lengths 9
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 1⁄2
9 cherry tomatoes, quartered 9



  • Mortar and pestle (see Tip)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
This recipe comes from my new book, Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking: 125 Real Thai Recipes, which has just been published by Robert Rose, Inc.


It’s available wherever books are sold, as well as through online retailers including Indiebound, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. If you’re in Piedmont North Carolina during |April and May, come to one of my book events, listed here! I’d love to see you…

Nancie’s EVENTS in April and May 2015

(Click anywhere on each listing for details. Bookstore events are free and include snacks!)


Thursday, April 9th

Southern Season : Chapel Hill NC

Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking Class  6:00 pm

Click HERE to register

Friday, April 10th

Flyleaf Books: Chapel Hill

Book Talk and Signing  7:00 pm

Saturday, April 11th

Quail Ridge Books: Raleigh NC

Book Talk and Signing  3:00 pm

Saturday, May 2nd

McIntyre’s Books at Fearrington: Pittsboro NC (8 miles south of Chapel Hill)

Book Talk and Signing 11 am

Thursday, May 7th

Southern Season : Richmond VA

Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking Class 6:00 pm

Click HERE to regist

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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