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Recipe courtesy of Lakana Sopajan-Trubiana

Isaan Papaya Salad with Fried Pork Belly

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This is the style of papaya salad we make at home on our family rice farm in Isaan in northeastern Thailand. It's different from the Bangkok ''big city'' version: It's funkier and more pungent from the addition of fermented fish sauce and salted crab. Traditionally, the salad is eaten with grilled or fried meat. Here we pair it with pork belly; the crunch and tang of the salad cuts the heaviness of the pork and balances out the dish.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 10 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Ingredients

Som Tom (Papaya Salad):

Fried Pork Belly:

Directions

Special equipment:
Large mortar and pestle (optional)
  1. For the som tom (papaya salad): Combine the chiles, garlic and palm sugar in a large mortar and bash with a pestle until it forms a coarse paste, 2 to 5 minutes. (You can also combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and use gloved hands to break, shred and mash the ingredients together.) Add the tomatoes, fermented fish sauce, fish sauce, tamarind juice and limes and mix well. Add the papaya, carrot and salted crab and mix gently.
  2. For the fried pork belly: Combine the fish sauce, sugar and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Add the pork and massage the ingredients into the meat. Refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes to marinate.
  3. Place the tempura flour in a large bowl. Coat the pork belly in the flour and place on a sheet pan fitted with a cooling rack. Pour oil to the depth of 1 to 2 inches into a large heavy skillet and place over medium to low heat. When hot, gently place the pork belly in the skillet and cook until golden brown and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Drain the pork briefly on a clean wire rack set over a sheet pan. Serve with the papaya salad. 

Cook’s Note

Hand-shredding with a large sharp knife, not with a box grater, is the traditional way to prepare the papaya for this salad and will give you a crunchier texture. You can tweak the flavors in this recipe to your preference: add more palm sugar for a sweeter dish, more chiles for spicier one, and so on.