Today’s Doodle honours Som Tum, a sweet and spicy green papaya salad popular in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Thailand’s Department of Cultural Promotion designated Som Tum as a national intangible cultural heritage cuisine on this day in 2012.
The origins of som tum, like many of the world’s most beloved meals, are buried in mystery. Due to its rich history in the historic Isaan region, which comprises portions of northeastern Thailand and borders Laos, most food historians believe the savoury salad originated in Laos. Spicy Thai chilies are complemented by palm sugar, garlic, shrimp, fish sauce, peanuts, limes, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and green papaya in this classic Thai meal.
The term “som tum” is a combination of two Isaan terms that mean “tart flavour” and “to pound,” referring to the first phase in the salad’s preparation, which involves grinding numerous ingredients into a tart salad dressing with a mortar and pestle. The dressing is combined with the remaining ingredients and roasted peanuts are added for a salty crunch. The end result is a salad that is salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter at the same time—a taste combination that is unique to Thai cuisine.
The method of preparation varies by area, but most serve this beloved Thai staple with sticky rice. If you’re new to som tum, it’s important to pay attention to the number of chilis in your salad because they’re notoriously spicy!
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