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green papaya salad (som tum) questions

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A: how to tell if the papayas are green enough? I usually get them at Trader Joes, most recently, the "Caribbean Red" variety. I look for the hardest, greenest ones I can find but they never seem to be green enough in that the seeds are mature and the flesh is pinkish and not as firm as I would like. I end up wasting quite a bit that just mushes instead of shredding nicely. Along those same lines, is holding green papayas in the fridge a valid means of keeping them green or are they one of those things that should never be refrigerated?

B: is there a preferred or more authentic variety of papaya for this salad?

C: what is the prevailing wisdom about timing? I have always dressed and served it immediately or within a few hours, but today I am eating leftovers from last night and it seems like the papaya shreds have gotten firmer and chewier after a night in the fridge exposed to dressing, which I like. I've never seen any directive in recipes about how long to wait before serving. Resting certainly makes sense from a flavor meld point of view.
Interesting and weird, the liquid has formed a gel...?

D: is there really such a thing as pre-shredded green papaya and is it worth buying? I haven't ever seen this, but I will look next time I am at the Asian market.

Thanks for your help. It's one of those dishes I can really never get enough of so I make it at home quite a bit. I could eat a mixing bowls' worth.

Also, if anyone can comment on method/technique...one of the Thai restos we go to serves it with thin slices of jerky-like (deep fried?) sugary beef that is absolutely addictive. How to make?

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  1. Splatgirl,

    I love Som Tum; I purchase pre-shredded green papaya from my asian market, where they sell it in bulk in the refridgerated produce aisle. Easy peasy.

    I believe that there is a specific variety (ies) of payapa that are grown to be eaten green.

    I like to let the salad sit in the fridge dressed for a few hours before eating to let the flavors meld. My recipe can end up tasting too salty/fishy by the next day's end if I don't take the time to pour of acumulated liquid (ingredients give off water due to the high salt content), but if I do pour off the liquid and give it a toss, the salad can stand for a couple of days - if it lasts that long.

    That beef-floss is awesome; would also love to know how to make it to put on top!

    1 Reply
    1. re: gingershelley

      Good to know about the pre shredded stuff!

      The beef I am so enamored with is thin slices but floss would probably be better since that's easier to eat and more tooth friendly.

      There's only one Thai place around here that serves the whole deal of sticky rice, salad, lettuce and meat and the availability tends to be sketchy, unfortunately. Some places no rice or lettuce, most places no meat candy.

    2. The beef you like so much is probably Isaan (northern Thai) style twice cooked beef. If you start a recipe search with Isaan, you'll probably be able to find it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: arashall

        THANK YOU!

      2. OK--I found this link
        http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/03/my...
        which leads to a recipe that I think is pretty much what I am thinking of re: the beef
        http://shesimmers.com/2011/01/fried-s...

        I am off to dig through my freezer for a piece of beef that I can use!

        1 Reply
        1. re: splatgirl

          That looks good and not very difficult. Eager to hear how it turns out.