Green Papaya Salad?  Or Is It?  (Thai-Style Broccoli Slaw Salad Recipe)

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I absolutely adore Thai green papaya salad, or Som Tam.  I always order it when I see it on a restaurant menu.  In fact, I have actually dined at certain restaurants solely because I’d heard that their green papaya salad was amazing.  My favorite Asian market sometimes carries their own homemade version of it, and it is really something special.   Sadly, I haven’t seen it there in quite a while.

The best way I can think of to describe green papaya salad is as a crunchy, sweet and salty take on Western coleslaw.   It’s a lively party of many textures and flavors, like garlic, chili, lime and fish sauce, and it is just plain delicious.  The main ingredient of traditional Som Tam is of course, shredded “green” papaya, which is basically the flesh of the raw, unripened fruit.  While I can easily find ripe, yellow papayas in my local markets, the unripe ones are more elusive.  And, when I have a craving for green papaya salad, that just won’t do!


When I made my Asian Wedding Soup, aka faux pho, a few weeks ago, I desperately wanted a bowl of green papaya salad to serve alongside it.   But, I also didn’t want to go crazy looking for all of the ingredients I would need.  So, I put on my food ninja thinking cap, and tried to figure out a way to achieve the “personality” of the dish with what was readily available to me.  Sometimes, you just have to think outside the box.  What I came up with was a  creative and very tasty (if I do say so myself) take on this Thai classic.   Instead of green papaya  as the base for my salad, I used….. 



Yup.  That’s right.  I used a bag of good old broccoli slaw plucked from the produce aisle of my local supermarket.    It was already julienned.  It was crisp.  It was crunchy.  It was easy.  And, it was even green!   But, the most important thing was that, when it was all dolled up in its fancy, exotic dressing, it gave me the same essence of that green papaya salad that I love so much.   I can’t believe I’d never thought if it before!


To prepare my salad, I whisked up my dressing, dumped the broccoli slaw in a bowl along with some chopped tomatoes and scallions, and mixed them all together.  Then, I sprinkled some chopped, dry roasted peanuts on top for a little extra crunch.  That was it!  Really, it couldn’t have been simpler.

The guidelines for this recipe are not written in stone.  I’ve listed the ingredients in the measurements that I used.  Feel free to change them to suit your own tastes.  I love fish sauce, so I was a little heavy handed with it.  If you like a more subtle kick, use less.  The same goes for the rest of the ingredients.  The important thing is that you like it.

Now, if I ever do come across a true green papaya, I’ll be more than happy to whip up the real deal.  But for now, I’m thrilled with my faux version.   It’s a vibrant, refreshing and very flavorful dish that would be a welcome addition to any Asian-inspired meal – at least at my table.





13 responses to Green Papaya Salad?  Or Is It?  (Thai-Style Broccoli Slaw Salad Recipe)

  1. On January 27, 2011 at 12:31pm, Rosa said...

    I adore green papaya salad. That is a wonderful alternative.



  2. On January 27, 2011 at 1:09pm, Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

    I’m a huge fan of broccoli slaw, both raw and cooked. It’s one of the great convenience foods of the past couple of years.

    • On January 30, 2011 at 9:20am, Susan said...

      I’ve never thought of cooking broccoli slaw! I’ll have to try that.

  3. On January 27, 2011 at 3:14pm, Joanna said...

    Exciting. I saved this out in my Evernote files. I was looking for an asian style cole slaw to pair with a slow cooker Thai style ribs a couple weeks ago. This would have been better than what I settled on. Can’t wait to try it I love green papaya salad, mostly experienced at Cambodian festivals. I’ve wanted to try making it. This is accessible. Thanks for sharing! You know, one of my favorite parts of the day is to cruise thru food blogs on my RSS. Sometimes it’s 5-10 minutes that I squeeze in at work in between meetings. Helps me “escape” just for a little while SGCC is one my favs! If I only have a few minutes, I choose your site over others. Great job!

    • On January 30, 2011 at 9:26am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Joanna! I’m flattered! I’ve been wanting to learn how to use Evernote. I’ve heard such great things about it.

  4. On January 27, 2011 at 9:09pm, SMITH BITES said...

    Susan ~ I am really, really, really going to try this!!! i’ve never had a green papaya salad but my niece who is a vegetarian LOVES it. trouble is, i can’t get green papayas here so this is going to be my maiden voyage!! you are the bees knees!!!

    • On January 30, 2011 at 9:28am, Susan said...

      Aw! You make me blush! Thanks! I have to say that the broccoli slaw really makes a great substitution in this dish. And, it stays crunchy forever! :)

  5. On January 29, 2011 at 7:55am, brilynn said...

    I love pretty much anything Thai inspired, it always seems so fresh and full of flavour, this looks great!

  6. On January 29, 2011 at 9:12am, nina said...

    Fresh, inviting and most delicious…that is what I like about Thai food and that’s wat I like about your food!!

  7. On January 30, 2011 at 12:26am, สายรุัง said...

    ส้มตำอร่อยจริงๆ!!! Just a quick note on the recipe – if you’re a bit lazier you can just do it all in a mortar and pestle. Start with crushing the chilis and garlic, add the rest of the dressing ingredients and then the salad parts, tapping lightly with an up-and-down motion to mix it all together.
    At least, that’s how my แม่ does it (:
    And good thought on the broccoli – cause in North America you can’t just walk outside and pluck a papaya from the tree in the backyard (unfortunately).

    • On January 30, 2011 at 9:30am, Susan said...

      Thanks! Glad you like it! Hehehe! It doesn’t get much lazier than opening up a bag of slaw! 😀

  8. On February 14, 2011 at 8:14am, roz said...

    I can’t get enough Thai food myself; thank you for sharing this fabulous recipe! Bookmarked! Love following your great posts!

  9. On February 26, 2011 at 9:34am, cowsoy said...

    i was just looking throught some food blogs and came upon yours! such a innovating
    alternative, broccalli slaw- who would have guessed? Being a half-thai living in America, I have often
    had to make thai food missing out essential ingrediants or just not eating it altogether. This recipe is just what i need for when I am homesick.

    oh, just one itty-bitty thing, the thai you put at the end of the blog.. dosent make sense. what you wrote said something like, i hope food expands/developes :D. were you going for a bon apetit? ขอให้มีความสุขในการกิน is something like happy eating!
    Thanks for the great idea!

1 pings to Green Papaya Salad?  Or Is It?  (Thai-Style Broccoli Slaw Salad Recipe)

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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