One of the most treasured memories you’ll bring back from your traveling adventures are local cooking lessons! If you are planning to travel to Turkey, Thailand, China, Italy or anywhere in the world and you like to eat, then I kid you not, breaking away from the monotony of tour guides and shopping sprees to indulge in a 1/2 day spent at a local cooking school will be an investment you will cherish for life! Not only it’ll give you a chance to immerse into the local culture, it is fun, you get to meet travelers around the world, make new friends and most importantly, you bring back home exciting recipes to show off to your friends!
There are ways to go about researching which cooking class to attend – TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves or simply, ask the hotel you’re staying in for recommendations. Because that’s how we ended up at The Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok last year during our two-week trip to Thailand. The staff not only recommended the school, they even went ahead and made reservations for us. Turned out to be one of the best moments of our trip!
Today, I will share a simple recipe for Green Papaya Salad from The Blue Elephant cookbook which I bought on my way out (another great investment!). I was introduced to Papaya Salad during my trip to Chiang Rai in Thailand. Our tour guide had us stop at a local hole-in-the-wall for lunch and I swear, that day I had the best Thai food of my life…and discovered this quick salad which I now consume for a quick lunch quite frequently.
- You can find these ingredients at Asian supermarkets (yelp it!). If you are in Houston, your best bets are Asia Market in The Heights or 99 Ranch Market and Super H Mart in Memorial. I personally like Asia Market, it’s small so no overwhelming aisles and the staff especially the owner are very sweet and extremely helpful. They are more than willing to provide a one-on-one shopping experience and at times, will give their recommendations on what brands to purchase.
- I learned in Thailand the best way to capture true aroma of Thai spices in your dish is to use a mortar to mix your spices preferably one made of stone as seen here on Amazon. I already bought mine at a local Indian grocery store and have used it since for Indian and Thai recipes.
- Many Asian supermarkets have pre-shredded green papaya which is what I used for this recipe. I bought mine at Asia Market. However, if you want to be the Indiana Jones of cooking, find whole green papaya and peel/shred it using a cheese grater, papaya shredder or a food processor with grater.
Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
makes 1 serving
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 4 green Thai chilies
- 1 oz French beans, cut into 3/4 of an inch
- 3/4 oz or 1/6 cup dried shrimps (I used slightly less as this can make the salad a bit fishy and I don’t like fishy)
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce (again, I used slightly less to make it less fishier)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 oz or 1/8 cup roasted peanuts
- 7 oz shredded papaya
- In a mortar, roughly pound the garlic and chilies. Add the beans and pound, then the shrimps and pound again until crushed.
- Add the sugar, fish sauce and lemon juice and stir together. Add the tomatoes and press with the pestle.
- Add the peanuts and the papaya and stir until well mixed in.
Serve cold in a round dish!