I’ve been surprised at how readily available beetroot is at Thai markets since I arrived here in Bangkok. I eat beetroot all the time in England, especially raw in salads, so I decided to include it in my Thai cooking as well. Without a doubt, the best salad available in Thailand is a som tam – a salad of shredded unripe papaya, green beans, and tomatoes. I’ve decided to swap the raw papaya for raw beetroot in this recipe, and the results are fantastic.
With the beetroot season in full swing in the UK and the fact unripe papaya can be hard to find and expensive when you do find it, this is a perfect salad to serve up alongside any of your favourite Thai dishes.
A Julienne peeler works best for this, but you could use a food processor with a Julienne attachment or, at a push, the large side of a cheese grater.
Som tam is always made in a clay pestle and mortar with a wooden pestle. It’s used for bruising more than completely smashing like you’d use a stone one for. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, though, many a time I’ve used a heavy mixing bowl, and a large rolling pin to make my som tam. It’s all about improvisation!
Beetroot Som Tam - ส้มตำบีทรูท
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A great alternative to a traditional som tam, using in season beetroots.
Use your Julienne peeler or food processor to shred the carrots and beetroot. Set aside.
Put the chilli and garlic in the pestle and mortar and pound until it's smashed, but not into a complete paste.
Add the beans, the two empty lime halves, and the peanuts and pound again. Again, you're just bruising and breaking everything up. Add the fish sauce, tamarind, mint, and lime juice, and pound a couple more times.
Add the beetroot, carrots and tomatoes. With the wooden pestle in whatever hand is your strongest (if you're right handed, hold it in your right hand), and a big spoon in the other, pound the mix, folding with the spoon to scrape the ingredients off the bottom of the mortar between pounds, until everything is well combined.
Serve as a side dish for 2-4 people with your favourite grilled meats or as a large healthy salad for one.