Thursday, 17 January 2013

Salads are a wonderful thing

Summer is a time to be healthy. All the vibrant colours of fresh fruit and bright, nutritious, vegetables. The problem for me is the taste of meat, fried and junk food after a long winter is just so too tempting. But when I get stuck into healthy salads and steamed veg with loads of fresh, delicate flavours I always seem to kick myself for not eating more of it. I mean, why do we always add butter, cream, oil or other ingredients loaded with sugar and fat to our meals. Yes, it helps them taste better and once you get into the habit of eating this way it's near impossible to break away for the comfort of it. But again, why don't we rely on what naturally good ingredients we have, especially during our beautiful African summers? Lemon juice, olive oil, fruit fruit juice, joghurt (at a fraction of the fat of cream), vinegars and my particular favourites asian sauces - soy, fish sauce, oyster sauce, tamarind and lime juice.

Taking just a few of these ingredients you can make yourself a salad you'll be hard pressed to beat. It's a street vendor speciality found all over Thailand called Som Tam - Green Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad – Som Tam

Serves 1-2


  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, roughly chopped (remove seeds if preferred)
  • 1 loose cup green papaya, julienne
  • ½ loose cup carrot, julienne
  • ½ loose cup bean sprouts
  • ½ loose cup string beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 25g peanuts
  • 6-8 prawns, pealed and cooked
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • ½ tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp palm sugar

  1. In a mortar with a pestle make a paste of the garlic, ginger and chilie
  2. Next add the papaya, carrot, bean sprouts, string beans and tomatoes. Lightly bash the vegetables and fruit together – here you’re not trying to make a paste but soften the ingredients and release their flavours.
  3. After a few bashes with the pestle add the peanut and break them lightly.
  4. Mix in the prawns with a spoon.
  5. In a bowl add the tamarind paste, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Mix well and pour this dressing over the salad before mixing through to coat all the ingredients well.
  6. Spoon the salad out of the mortar onto a plate or into a bowl and enjoy immediately.
(image from

It's these kinds of salads that jerk you out of your naughty eating habits and make you realise what you've been missing. 

This wonderful salad is often served in a plastic packet with chop sticks and enjoyed on the go for a light refreshing meal wherever you are in Thialand.