The simplicity, robust flavours, sharpness and balance of this salad make it a perfect ambassador for Thai cuisine, and it highlights the full spectrum of Thai flavours: hot, sour, sweet and salty.
Serves 1, or 2 to 3 as an appetizer
2 to 3 red Thai bird’s eye chilies
1 to 2 garlic cloves
Pinch of coarse sea salt
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp dried prawns
1 tbsp roasted peanuts, skinned
1 tbsp tamarind water (see recipe below)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Fish sauce, to taste
1 cup shredded green papaya
1/8 cup sliced long beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp shredded carrot
1 14-ounce bag tamarind pulp
6 cups water
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chilies and garlic together into a fine paste, using a pinch of salt as an abrasive. Add the palm sugar, dried prawns and roasted peanuts, and pound everything together until it becomes a coarse paste. Add the tamarind water, lime juice and fish sauce to complete the dressing, and stir with the pestle until fully incorporated.
Add the green papaya, long beans, cherry tomatoes and carrot and pound lightly to bruise and soften them so they can absorb the dressing, then toss to combine with the paste. Alternatively, if your mortar and pestle isn’t large enough to handle all the ingredients, you can use a pestle with a large mixing bowl for the vegetables. The finished salad should taste sour, salty, lightly sweet and hot.
Cut a brick of tamarind pulp into small pieces and soak overnight in water. The next day, use your hands to massage the water into the tamarind and loosen it up. Once the water is well saturated with tamarind, pass it through a strainer and keep only the tamarind water. Store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. Tamarind water goes rancid quickly, so don’t make too much at once.