Peel the papaya (I use a standard vegetable peeler), then slice papaya in half and scoop out black, slippery round seeds and some of the stringy flesh, but be careful not to scoop into good, firm flesh for the salad. Shred the papaya on a mandoline or a box grater. Set aside. Snip off the tips of the green beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat and add the beans. Cook until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and quickly add the beans to ice water. Cut the beans in half, about 2-inches in length and add them to a large bowl. In a large mixing bowl whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar, until the sugar is dissolved. Mix in the shredded papaya, green beans and carrots until well coated (I like to use tongs for this). Toss in the cilantro, mint, and dried shrimp. Then mix in the hot chiles, to taste. Let salad stand for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours, covered in the refrigerator.
Before serving, mix in most of the crushed peanuts, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish. When serving, mound the salad in center of a plate and sprinkle the remaining peanuts on top. The dish can be served on its own, or with Thai Grilled Shrimp and Thai jasmine or sticky rice, or with steamed vermicelli-rice noodles.
Preheat grill to medium heat. In a large bowl whisk all the marinade ingredients together. Add the shrimp and let marinate for up to 1 hour. Grill the shrimp 4 to 6 minutes each side until they begin to curl, get pink in color and firm up. Do not over cook or they will get rubbery. Brush the shrimp with the marinade during grilling. Put the remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Cook the marinade for at least 2 minutes and serve it as a sauce on the side. Serve the shrimp with the papaya salad. Cook's Note: This marinade/sauce is great with chicken thighs and pork tenderloin. If using chicken or pork then double the marinade recipe, marinate for 4 hours, and grill accordingly.
- Green papaya is an unripe papaya, the flesh is very firm, and greenish-white in color (not orange-red, soft and sweet like a ripened papaya). Green papayas are available in most Asian (especially Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese) grocery stores. Check your local Asian shopping center. If you can't find unripe green papaya, you can substitute unripe mango (very hard, woody and sour to the taste or very firm, unripe zucchini, or you could mix the two. If you go with these, follow same directions as with papaya). - Thai fish sauce (nam pla) is available in most grocery stores. When you first open the container and smell, it may come across as a bit fishy, but trust me, it is often the most important ingredient in S.E. Asian cuisine. - Peanuts: I prefer to toast my own, it's far easier than it sounds. Heat a large fry pan over high heat for 1 minute, then add whole raw, skinless peanuts. Turn down the heat to medium-low and keep constantly stirring and flipping the peanuts in pan, make sure you don't scorch them, but it is fine for them to get browned little heat (toasted) spots. If you smell acrid-smoke odor, then you are burning them, the aroma should smell almost like fresh peanut butter. Should take around 7 to 10 minutes to cook them. After 7 minutes take a few nuts and let them cool, taste them, if they are crunchy then done, if still a little soft and raw tasting after cooling then toast some more. You can toast a pound in advance and store them in a zip lock bag or glass jar for a couple of months or so. Once you start toasting your own peanuts you'll never buy jarred ones again, but if you don't want to toast your own then you can use unsalted, dry roasted peanuts. For the papaya salad, loosely crush the nuts. I usually do this by placing nuts in a resealable plastic bag or in between a few layers of paper towel. Then roll with a rolling pin or smash with a mallet. Again, loosely crushed, NOT crushed to point of being crumbed or to near peanut butter state. - Dried shrimp: Some western pallets find this a little too exotic and fishy to the taste, but for me Sum Tum isn't Som Tum without dried shrimp. It you are a wee bit leery about using the dried shrimp then just add a tablespoon or 2, or serve in side dish and let diners add them to their own plates. - Thai chiles: These are the small, 1-inch long red and green peppers that are VERY hot. If not available you can use jalapeno or habanero peppers. I mince chiles with the seeds. Traditionally Sum Tom or papaya salad is a very spicy dish in Thailand.
Recipe courtesy of Jeff Corwin