Thai-style Papaya Salad Alternative

Papaya salad (Som Tam) is a dish that originated in Southeast Asia. With its unique blend of sweet, spicy, sour, and salty tastes and crunchy texture, Som Tam has been voted as the #6 most delicious food in the world by CNN Travel.
Som Tam can be found in most Thai and Laotian markets and is famous among travelers, tourists, and ethnic food lovers around the world.
In context with Hmong history, Hmong people have been familiar with this dish since before their arrival in the United States. However, I believe that Hmong people are more accustomed to the Laotian version called Tam Maak Hoong which has a stronger flavor due to ingredients such as tamarind paste and fermented crab paste.
Som Tam is a very healthy and light dish that is sure to make your taste buds tingle. In this blog post, I will be showing you how to make a simplified Som Tam without the papaya! Let’s get started, shall we?

Meet the Main Ingredients

som tam ingredients

Ingredients List:


  1. Shred cabbage and cucumber
  2. Slice tomatoes
  3. Peel garlic
  4. Squeeze lemon/lime

Cooking Instructions

ingredients in mortar
ingredients in mortar

  1. Add garlic, peanuts, and chili peppers into mortar
  2. Use pestle to roughly smash ingredients
  3. Add lemon/lime juice and mix well with spoon
  4. Add rest of ingredients
  5. Use spoon to work ingredients together while smashing
  6. Continuing smashing ingredients in mortar until mixed well

Presentation: Thai-style Cabbage & Cucumber Salad

thai-style cabbage and cucumber salad

  • Scoop the salad from mortar into bowl/plate
  • Optional: Sprinkle with crushed peanuts for presentation
  • Best eaten with a side of sticky rice!


  • For a sweet summer flavor, try substituting cabbage and cucumbers with mangoes
  • Add long green beans for a crunchy texture and gorgeous color
  • Add vermicelli noodles for a soft texture

Happy Eating!


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