We may not be able to travel right now, but you can still send your taste buds on a flight to northern Thailand with this Taste Of recipe from Lakana Sopajan-Trubiana. Spicy, crunchy and full of flavour, this papaya salad pairs perfectly with salty fried pork belly.
“This is the style of papaya salad we make at home on our family rice farm in Isaan in northeastern Thailand,” says Lakana. “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.”
Isaan Papaya Salad With Fried Pork Belly
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Som Tom (Papaya Salad)
4 to 10 fresh Thai bird chiles, depending on taste
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp palm sugar
½ cup halved grape tomatoes
3 Tbsp fermented fish sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp tamarind juice
2 slices lime
2 cups shredded young green papaya
¼ cup shredded carrot
¼ cup salted crab
Fried Pork Belly
¼ cup fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 ¼ lbs pork belly, cut crossways into ½-inch-thick slices
2 ½ cups tempura flour
Canola oil, for frying
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 flavours in this recipe to your preference: add more palm sugar for a sweeter dish, more chiles for spicier one and so on.
Looking for even more salad recipes? These hearty salads will brighten up any winter meal.