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Thai Vegetarian - Som Tam

Recipe For Vegetarian Thai Som Tum  

It has been quite a while since we published our now famous recipe for, the Thai salad - Som Tum. While this Thai salad recipe has become one of the most viewed (and we hope tried) Thai recipes for this popular Thai dish, a number of requests keep coming in for the vegetarian version. What readers want is a good and reliable Thai vegetarian som tam recipe. We have replied to dozens of individual emails and provided recipes for the Thai vegetarian dish. At this point we feel that, it is a great idea to actually publish the recipe for vegetarian som tam. We do hope that it becomes as popular as, the non-vegetarian version that we have released earlier.

If you are already familiar with the regular som tum recipe that is non-vegetarian, we can give you a quick tip that will give you fast results. For those of you who are not aware of the som tam recipe, keep reading the entire contents on this web page, your patience will be well rewarded. The regular recipe for the Thai Som Tum salad has two ingredients that will not be suitable for vegetarians, fish sauce and shrimps. If you wanted to make veg som tam, leave the shrimp out of the recipe. For the fish sauce, substitute it with vegetarian soy sauce - this is available in readymade form.

vegetarian thai food, vegetarian som tum from Thailand
Vegetarian Thai Som Tum, delicious and mouth watering. We provide you the entire recipe to make veg som tam but, if you already have an idea of how to make som tum, the vegetarian version is quite easy. All you will need to do is to leave the shrimp out of the recipe and replace the fish sauce with soya sauce.

Before we go to the details on making vegetarian Thai som tum, let us keep the image of the final dish before us. You can almost feel the delicious taste of freshness on your tongue just, by looking at the image. Since most of you would be trying out the vegetarian som tum recipe for the first time, we suggest that you make it to serve just 2-3 people. However, if you plan to show your cooking skills to a room full of guests, move ahead boldly - you are bound to do a great job.


Ingredients To Make Vegetarian Som Tum - Thai Salad.

2 Servings

1 Garlic Clove (1 portion of a garlic)
5-6 Long String Beans. The fresher the better.
1 Chilli. Can add 2 if you like it hot and spicey.
1 Ripe Tomato. Size of about 3 inches (7.5cm) in width.
1 Small Raw Papaya. Needs to be fresh and firm. About 7 to 8 inches long.
2 Tablespoons Of Peanuts.
1/2 A Fresh Lime. Extract the juice from the lime.  
1 Tablespoon Of Soy Sauce. Available readymade.
1 Tablespoon Of Sugar. Thais sometimes use brown sugar.
The piece of cabbage and the few longer pieces of beans that you see under the spoon, are not part of the making process. In Thailand, som tum is served along with these two items.

Before we get on with the actual making of our vegetarian Thai som tum salad, a few notes on the ingredients mentioned above. A garlic clove, would imply one piece - if you hold garlic in your hand it is normally sold in a shape that resembles an onion. In this are many small portions of garlic, take out just one of those portions and you have a garlic clove. The string beans need to be nice and fresh, one way to test them is to bend and break them between your gingers. Fresh beans will make a smart 'crack' sound as they break. For the chillies, you can use a green or reddish chilli it needs to be fresh and not dried. Keep in mind that the 'hotness' of the chilli needs to be moderate. Each country has it's own collection of chillies, so pick one that suits our description as closely as possible. Tomatoes are another ingredient for this Thai vegetarian dish that can have variations. Many Thais especially in large cities like Bangkok, use the tiny tomatoes that are quite freely available these days. These small tomatoes are no more than inch, if you plan to use them you will need about 4 to 5 of them. On the other hand, if all you can find is that huge enormous tomato, cut only a portion of that for use in your veg som tam. Soy sauce would be readily available in most grocery stores and supermarkets. Since most of these would be manufactured in Asia, they will have a clear mark saying that they are vegetarian.

The papaya is the highlight of the som tum recipe, so here are a few suggestions on how to choose the papaya. Based on the 2 serving size that we have mentioned above, we suggested a fairly small raw papaya. It is quite likely that such a size might not be available in your market. In that case use a larger raw papaya BUT do not cut it to pieces at the moment. For that crunchy flavour that is so desirable for fresh and mouth watering Thai som tum, the papaya needs to be nice and firm. We will talk about how to grate the papaya later in this veg som tum recipe.


We will now start workng with the ingredients, the excitement begins. It will not take long for you to make this delicious vegetarian som tum Thai dish, so be patient and give attention to all details explained below.

a) You might want to remove the fine dried skin (first layer) that clings on to the garlic clove. If your grocer sells garlic that is already separated into individual cloves, they might have already been skinned.

b) The string beans will have to be cut into small pieces. Some som tum recipes suggest 1 inch pieces while others recommend 1.5 inches. Our suggestions is to make 1 inch pieces of the long beans. Some recipes recommend that the beans be put into boiling water for about 4 to 5 minutes, the water is then drained and the beans kept aside for use.

c) You will need about 1cm tomato cubes. If you are using the small tomatoes to make your veg som tum, slice them vertically into two or three parts and that should be fine.

d) Now working on the papaya, som tum is often referred to as papaya salad - need to put some head and effort into handling the papaya. If you have a look at the image of the vegetarian som tum salad shown above, the papaya is seen as long strings. You will first need to take the skin of the papaya. There is a scraper available that is used specifically for this purpose. If you have access to this scraper, hold the papaya on your left hand and scrape it gradually with the scraper. Do this gently but firmly and keep your fingers off harms way. Now, if there is no scraper available, we do it the way a professional would. Hold the papaya in your hand, take a sharp knife and slowly hit the papaya vertically. Do not be too hard on the papaya, you will also risk hurting yourself. The slits that are formed on the papaya, need to be vertically oriented along the longer side of the fruit. You will need the cuts to be no more than half a centimeter deep, so do not use too much force. Cover the front half of the papaya with such cuts. Now use the same knife and vertically cut the cut portion of the fruit. To do that, the knife will be perpendicular to the length of he fruit. The depth of the cut should be just enough to get all the cut portion, out as separated strings.

e) The peanuts shown in the image are split into two, this is one way of handling them. Before you do anything with the peanuts, you will need to ensure that they are skinned. Then take a small pan and roast the peanuts until they are lightly roasted. At this point, you can just split them into halves or, do it the more authentic way. The roasted peanuts are generally pounded into smaller pieces, not a fine powder but rather coarse.

We have now brought all the ingredients in our veg som tum recipe in a ready to use condition. Let us begin to do the fun part, this is where the different flavours of the various ingredients mix together to create that magical delight.

You will now need a mortar and pestle, we are going to do a bit of smashing here. In Thailand, these are generally made of stone (rock) though, wooden versions are also available. Clean the mortar and put the garlic into it, smash the garlic with the pestle. At this stage add the cut green beans and tomatoes into the mortar. Pound the contents in the mortar until the green beans are partially smashed. The juice should also be coming out of the smashed tomatoes by then.

Leave the contents in the mortar as it is, our entire som tum dish will be made in this mortar. Now add the chillies to the contents of the mortar, smash the chillies and this will bring the hotness to the dish. You can now add the papaya, roasted peanuts, sugar, lime juice and soy sauce to the contents in the mortar. At this moment, step back and make sure that all the ingredients that we set aside to make this, Thai vegetarian dish have been added to the mortar.

This is time for another smashing job in the mortar but, you will also need to keep a spoon close at hand. As you use the pestle to pound the contents in the mortar, the contents will keep moving up the sides of the mortar. You will need the spoon to scrape the contents from the side and move them to the center of the mortar. Regarding just how much to pound the mixture in the mortar, take another look at the picture of the somtum shown above. This we would say is the minimum, you might want to pound the mixture a wee bit more than shown in the image.

You can now scrape the contents out of the mortar and move them to a dish. Leave the dish still for about 5 minutes, that will allow all the smashed ingredients to seep their flavour into each other. Traditionally Thai som tum salad, is served along with a side dish. This includes pieces of green beans and a fairly thick but small size of cabbage. Traditionally som tum is made very spicey and hot - the side dish also contains crushed ice along with the beans and cabbage. You can eat your vegetarian som tam, with rice - the Thais do that with their favorite, sticky rice.

We would suggest that you do not store your veg som tum for long. Since the making time for this popular Thai food dish, is quite small - we recommend that you make it just 5 to 10 minutes before you plan to eat it. Leaving the ready som tum for a long time, causes the firm cabbage strips and also the beans to become quite soggy. Remember that this is just you first try at making veg Thai food, you can always experiment by fine tuning the proportion of ingredients used in the recipe.


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