Green Bean Salad “Som Tum”


Green Bean Salad, Somtum style

One night recently I had a sudden urge of a Som Tum, Thai-style papaya salad. When I’m in San Francisco, it’s easy enough to just zip down to Clement St. and for unripe green papaya, the main ingredient for the salad. Down here in Santa Cruz, on the other hand, it’s a bit of a trek over the hill to San Jose.

Not in the mood for the drive, I had to find a suitable alternative, and an idea came to me to use French Haricots Verts beans in place of shredded green papaya. Well, it’s not exactly an original idea, I just had the same salad over at my friend Kit’s house a while back. She, in turn, got the idea from an old Thai cookbook called “Cooking Thai Food in American Kitchens“. The book, which came out in the late ’70s, was probably the first book that adapted Thai recipes for the American kitchen. Needless to say it’s rather obsolete now, making substitution for things that are by now ubiquitous even in normal supermarkets. But I do have fond memories of trying a few recipes in that book when I first moved to the US and didn’t quite know where to find ingredients I needed.

So I made the salad, using thin Haricots Verts from my friend Joe’s Dirty Girl farm that I just got. You can use regular green beans for this if you can’t find French beans. I don’t cook my beans because Joe’s Haricots are so young and delicate, and entirely delicious uncooked. If you want to use regular green beans, give them a try first, they might need to be blanched in boiling water to make it just a bit more tender. If you need to pre-blanche the beans, remember to shock the beans in cold ice water immediately after the quick bath in boiling water, to keep the bright green color and prevent the beans
from overcooking.

Green Beans Salad, Somtum Style

4oz or 120g of Haricots Verts, as small as you could find (I trim a bit off both ends, but you don’t have to)
1/2 tbsp palm sugar (or 1tsp brown or white sugar)
1 small garlic clove
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
1-2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tbsp dried shrimps (optional)
1-2 tbsp peanuts -to taste
1 Bird-eye chilli

In a mortar, add dried shrimps and pound until they turn into fluffy flakes, then remove from the mortar and set aside. Gently crush a small garlic clove in the mortar, then add the haricots verts and peanuts and pound them with the pestle until the haricots verts are bruised and the peanuts lightly crushed. Sprinkle the sugar, then add fish sauce and lime juice and continue to pound while stirring the content of the mortar until well mixed. Add one (or only half) bird-eye chilli to the mortar and crush lightly, then mix with the rest of the content. Add the cherry tomatoes to the mortar and crush them lightly. Sprinkle the shrimp flakes and toss well. Check the seasonings, add lime juice or fish sauce as needed.

P.S. You can make this salad to be entirely vegetarian friendly by skipping the dried shrimp and use Thai light soy sauce in place of the fish sauce.

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17 Responses to “Green Bean Salad “Som Tum”

  • ZenKimchi said:
    September 18th, 2006 at 5:50pm

    I’d like to get my hands on that book, considering a lot of my work has happened to be about how to cook western food in a Korean kitchen.
    And cilantro only recently started popping up at the local big box store. So green papaya salad is a long way away in Korea.

  • Jeff said:
    September 18th, 2006 at 5:58pm

    Looks like a great way to eat the green beans 🙂

  • Mem said:
    September 19th, 2006 at 2:25am

    Hearing about Khun Malulee’s book brings back fond memories. I was given it about 14 years ago, by the wife of one of the diplomats at the Thai Embassy in London. I’d eaten a wonderful meal at her home, and having raved about the delicious food, she insisted on sending me home with a copy. Diplomacy through food — the most important kind!

  • Thanh said:
    September 19th, 2006 at 3:32am

    I’ve only recently learnt how to make papaya salad after having it at a Thai restaurant. It’s so delicious with the crispy green papaya and the sharp sauce that I ate it almost everyday for about a week. Now I try to limit it to about once a week.

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande said:
    September 19th, 2006 at 4:30am

    Oh, I absolutely adore the look of this salad. Les bons haricots verts ! And, in view of the ingredient list, I can tell I would love it.

  • Jal J said:
    September 19th, 2006 at 8:14am

    In a pinch, my mom makes Som Tum-style salad using very thinly shredded cabbage or carrots. Not as good as green papaya, but always very fresh and tangy.

  • Catherine said:
    September 19th, 2006 at 11:57am

    Totally different subject, but I hope all of your friends and family are okay in light of the recent coup.

  • Anond Pinsuvana said:
    September 21st, 2006 at 10:04pm

    Hi Chez Pim,
    Thanks for referring my mom’s recipe to make a new French-Thai fusion with with Haricot Verts (Green Beans!) Hmm…honestly…I don’t recall my brother Argard going to school in England but at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Ya the Miss. Thailand model never worked out…oh well! ;P

  • Paul Jardine said:
    November 8th, 2006 at 11:54pm

    It’s pretty common to get a somtum-style salad made from beans instead of Papaya here on the street in Bangkok. Perhaps they’re all using your cousin’s friend’s aunt’s recipe.
    The real question is where you’re going to get the small crabs and pla-ra to put in the mix.
    Oh, and I’ve never had a decent somtum in a restaurant in Thailand, the street is the ONLY place to get one.
    I read another of your posts about icky hotel food in Thailand and I completely agree, most of the hotels serve up poor excuses for Thai food – but the tourists love it! yeech…

  • Josh said:
    November 16th, 2006 at 5:46pm

    I have to completely disagree with the earlier commentator who (mildly) insulted carrot-based Som Tam. We’ve completely switched over from using green papaya. The taste difference is tiny, maybe we use less sugar, but it is always made to taste, anyway, so how would we know? Carrots, like the beans, have a # of advantages over papaya (1) easier to buy, (2) easier to grate, and (3) easier to make a small portion for 1 or 2 people at a time, and (4) finally makes sense to call it Som Tam (to this farang, at least)!

  • Bradford said:
    December 12th, 2006 at 3:14am

    Som tam tua fukyao? Unlike that one dude, never seen it or ever heard about it in Bangkok or anywhere else until now. I’m gonna try ordering it tomorrow. I’m sure the local som tam lady is gonna give an “arai wa?” look.
    As for the best som tam, and I am a som tam addict, the best place in Bangkok is in a restaurant in an office building on Sathorn. I couldn’t find it again if I tried. I had a Thai friend take me.
    Interestingly, I am a Santa Cruz native living in Bangkok.
    I wonder how my home town has changed. When I lived there, there was a Thai food restaurant on almost every corner. I’m surprised after all these years green papaya hasn’t made it there yet.

  • donna said:
    October 18th, 2008 at 4:50am

    Found your site by accident Love it !Green Beans my way everyone loved them
    fresh thyme
    fresh mint
    butter & evo
    green beans of course
    cherry tomatoes
    sautee shallots and garlic in the evo and butter add the blanched gb toss add cherries whole toss add the thyme and mint s&p serve as a side

  • yanyan said:
    November 6th, 2008 at 5:50am

    I like

  • Luciene Gouvêa said:
    September 29th, 2009 at 1:23pm

    Olá Pim!
    Vou fazer aqui no Brasil e chamar alguns amigos para saborear esta receita que parece deliciosa!
    Soube sobre você numa matéria na TV aqui no Brasil!

  • laura @ green papaya said:
    March 27th, 2010 at 2:31am

    wow what a great idea. I love somtum, but i would haven’t tried somtum style green beans. I’ve done cucumber and carrots but not green beans.

  • green papaya said:
    March 27th, 2010 at 2:32am

    what a great idea. I done somtum style carrots and cucumbers, but not yet with green beans

  • Angie said:
    September 9th, 2010 at 5:20am

    Que pinta tiene todo hija mia!!

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