Tam Mak Hoong – Spicy Lao Green Papaya Salad

Green papaya salad is claimed as an innovation of the Lao people, which was introduced to central Thailand and the rest of the world by the Lao/Isan migrants moving to Bangkok to seek work. Variations of the dish are found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and as well as in the West, where it is more commonly known by its Thai name.

Tam Mak Hoong - Spicy Lao Green Papaya Salad
Cuisine: Laotian
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 green papaya, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 red bird's-eye chillies
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Thai shrimp paste
  • 2–3 snake beans cut into 2 cm pieces, or 3–4 small Asian eggplant, cut into thin wedges, or 2–3 chopped garlic leaves, to serve (optional)
  • 125 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 large limes or 2 small lemons, juiced, or to taste
  • 1–2 tablespoons padaek (fermented fish sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
  • white cabbage wedges or sprigs of young morning glory and pork crackers, to serve
  1. Using a large sharp knife, shred the papaya Lao-style by making long, thin shallow cuts into the flesh while turning the fruit. Use knife to shave the cuts into shards. Alternatively, use a mandoline fitted with a julienne blade.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the salt, chillies, sugar and garlic, if using, until broken up and mixed well. Add the shrimp paste and combine well.
  3. Add the shredded green papaya and snake beans, eggplant or garlic leaves, if using. Add the cherry tomato, lime juice, padaek and fish sauce. Pound ingredients with pestle, using a spoon in the other hand to mix ingredients well.
  4. Once mixed, adjust flavours to taste for a balance of hot, sweet, sour and salty. Serve with cabbage wedges or young sprigs of morning glory on the side, and a separate plate of pork crackers.

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