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Nate @ House of Annie

Wow, makes me wanna try it! Thanks for sharing. Interesting to see green papaya treated almost like cucumber in this salad.


Wow. I've tried this back then and I can say these are really great! I really love spicy food! Just looking at this dish I could say that this is really Asian. Thanks for sharing.

the lacquer spoon

Looks like peeled and sliced cucumber, but it's papaya! Interesting to compare and contrast their culinary tastes within SE Asia.


I love those little hot peppers you posted a picture of above!

Shiew Yuin

Like the shot of the shallots and tomatoes.


I just recently discovered your blog and what an education I am getting! I just love it! I love Asian food of all kinds but so many sources don't give you the real ingredients that are traditionally used. They kind of dumb it down for us Americans. But this is what I want to see and learn about. Wonderful! Simply wonderful!


Not too sure if this is helpful, but according to my Isan boyfriend, som tum also goes by the name of dtam mak huhng in Isan. Dtam = tum, mak huhng just means papaya in Isan. It's probably not a surprise since Isan and Laos are culturally close. :)


Only just discovered your blog, neighbour. We enjoyed our visit to Luang Prabang, but unfortunately fell victim to the "Delhi belly" that must come from the water, even though we (thought) we were always drinking bottled water. I suppose it depends on where it's bottled, and therefore the sanitary quality under which that process takes place.

renaissance costume

Oh yes.. papaya salad. I miss my mom.. She use to make this one when my friends come over the house. Thanks much for sharing this.

Shenandoah bed and breakfast

Thailand is famous for its delicious and mouthwatering dishes all around the world. The Lao Som Tam is a spicy and colorful dish and much famous in Thailand. It is made of green papaya, garlic, peanuts and chilies.


Tam mak hung is my favorite dish; my mom makes it for me every time I go home but somehow I've not been able to recreate it (probably has something to do with the barrels of padek she has fermenting in the tool shed). From talking to my Laotian and Thai relatives, tam mak hung or som tum is a Laotian dish. Som tum is eaten regularly in the Isan region of Thailand but until recently, wasn't popular outside of Isan. The Isan region used to be part of Laos so you will see lots of Laotian influence (i.e. the differences between the Isan language and Laotian are minuscule compared to the differences between the Isan dialect and Central Thai (Bangkok)). Also, Thai cuisine tends to be more spicy and sweet and Laotian cuisine tends to be more spicy and bitter so tam mak hung fits very well in Laotian cuisine.

Enough of that - did you know that you can also substitute long beans or cucumbers for the papaya? We tend to substitute those in the summer when we have fresh long beans or cucumbers from the garden but use papaya year round. Anyway, thanks for the lovely in-depth posts on Laos - it makes me so happy!


I'm a foreigner living in Laos and yes, I completely agree with the post before mine - tam mak hoong is very Lao. Even the som tam in Thailand is originally from the most Lao influenced parts of the country. The Lao people probably winced because it's a matter of national pride. I think laab is the other food they feel that way about.

Do you know what the name means literally?"Mak hoong" means papaya and "tam" means pounded in a mortar and pestle, "tamtamtam" is the sound it makes.


Shredded green papaya salad is a traditional Laotian dish that became popular in Thailand. Another popular Laotian dish is Larb, which has also spread to Thailand.

Half of present Thailand was previously under direct influence from the Laotian kingdom of Lan Xang, so it's not surprising that Laotian elements still exist in Thai cuisine.

The Laotian influences in Northern Thailand (Lanna) and Northeastern Thailand (Issan) continued on to Central Thailand in Bangkok. In Bangkok, the people there modified those Laotian dishes to suit the central Thai palate. To taste the original dishes, one should travel to Laos as the recipes there are still complex and exotic.


Responding to original authors or anyone one else traveling or ordering Tum Mak Hoong or Tum Som (Tum Som is how Lao people call it but Central Thais say it backwards; aka "Som Tum"), if you do not want phadek just say "Yah sai phadek" or "Bor sai phadek".

Like Northern & Northeastern people of Thailand, Lao people say "Bor" and don't use "Mai" as the negative like Central Thais (Bangkok).

Regarding papaya salad (speaking of the unripe style made in a mortar), there was some documentation in the Viengchan region regarding its origins. It is safe to say, it is one of regional and ethnically distinct dishes of Laos that spread through the Southeast Asia region.

Lao style papaya salad, technically can be made to preference depending on the cook or diner's choice. However, it is ALWAYS made with Phadek (not regular fish sauce), shrimp paste, sugar, and limes as the base ingredients.

My favorite Lao variety includes salted crabs, tamarind, and green globe eggplants as extra ingredients.

Any papaya salad made with regular fish sauce is considered "too Americanized" by hard core papaya salad fans.

Also, the Lao people make different variations of a "Tum" (smashed) salad in a mortar. It can be almost anything from Rice noodles, green beans, banana flowers, to cucumbers.


I love all the comments and discussion this post generated. I especially like what Nhai had to say! Very true!


Sounds delicious and those tomatoes look great in the photo! Thanks for sharing this.

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