Papaya salad is one of my favorite Thai dishes ever. On a recent trip back to Bangkok, I had the honor and the privilege of making this dish with one of the people who make it best: Lady Som Tum. She’s the daughter of the woman who won the first-ever papaya salad-making competition in Thailand. Clearly, she inherited her mother’s cooking skills, not to mention her business acumen.
How does Lady Som Tum make her papaya salad?
Lady Som Tum has her own stall in Or Tor Kor Farmers Market in Bangkok. There she has a mini-kitchen where she prepares her papaya salad for her customers.
And how does she make her papaya salad? It’s actually quite simple. With a mortar and pestle, she pounds together Thai chilies, garlic, long beans, dried shrimp, softened palm sugar, and salted crab. Once these ingredients are thoroughly mixed, she adds a little fish sauce and lime juice. Then, she puts in tomatoes, Thai eggplant, and the shredded papaya.
The result? Thai soul food bursting with flavor that leaves you feeling good with every bite. Yummy!
Lady Som Tum sells other stuff too
As we enjoyed our freshly made papaya salad, Lady Som Tum suggested that we eat it with her grilled chicken. It’s one of her store’s bestsellers. The chicken is farm-raised and free-range, so they have longer legs and, dare I say, better flavor. It also tastes gamier than regular chicken.
The lady doesn’t just sell papaya salad and chicken at her store, by the way. She also offers other dishes, and they’re already packed for your convenience. Her products are so good that you can easily find them in many high-end supermarkets all over Bangkok.
The beauty of Lady Som Tum’s business is it’s been in her family for 42 years. She inherited it from her mother, and she will pass it on to her own daughter in the future. Her daughter is getting ready to take over the operations when her turn comes up. The business has become a legacy, not just for her family but also for the city itself.
Watch the Lady Som Tum episode on my Nikky Feeding Souls YouTube channel here.