April 18, 2012

Nee's Zingy Papaya Salad Recipe - Dtum mak houng

Papaya Salad (dtum mak houng) is one of the most popular Lao dishes.  It makes for a nice light and healthy meal with some sticky rice or a nice side dish. It's an incredibly versatile recipe that can be changed up in any way you like.

Lao food - papaya salad - dtum mak houng

While there are a lot of ways to make papaya salad, this is one recipe you’ll definitely enjoy.  Here's our version with a list of optional ingredients (compliments of Nee).  You'll need a mortar and pestle for this.

  • 2-10 raw chilli peppers (depending what you can handle)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar (numtan)
  • 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste (gapee) or fermented fish sauce (badaek)
  • 2-3 handfuls of shredded papaya (or enough to fill at least half of your standard sized mortar)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots for color, optional
  • 1 whole tomato sliced or a handful of grape tomatoes (slice the grape tomatoes into halves to break open the juice)
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2-5 tablespoons of fish sauce (nampa), (do it to taste)
  1. Using the mortar and pestle, mash up the chilli peppers, garlic, sugar, and shrimp paste together until it becomes a unified paste.
  2. Then add the shredded papaya.  Add enough so that it fills at least halve your mortar but yet still has enough room for all your other ingredients.  Add the shredded carrots and sliced tomatoes.
  3. Squeeze 1/2 the lime and save the other half to add to taste later on just in case.  Mash it up.  Stop once you see all the juice is a nice red/brown color.  Lots of juice mean lots of boun! :)
  4. Pour your salad on to a plate and serve with a side of lettuce, vermicelli, and pork grinds.
Options and Substitutes:
  • You can use shredded cucumber or carrots instead of papaya.
  • You can add white rice vermicelli noodles to make it more filling.
  • You can add 1 tablespoon of crab liquid (nampu) for an extra punch of flavor.  
  • You can add dried mini shrimps or peanuts to the salad as well.
Feel free to experiment and change things up to your taste and liking.  Eat up and enjoy!

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