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Lao Green Papaya Salad

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Ordering Lao Green Papaya Salad (Tam Maak Hoong; ຕໍາໝາກຫຸ່ງ) at Kok Pho Market, Ban Wattay in Vientiane, Laos. The Tam Mak Hoong lady added crab sauce and a few raw crabs from a bucket of raw fermented fish sauce (Padaek; ປາແດກ) to the rest of the ingredients.

Green Papaya Salad, known as “Tam Mak Hoong” or “Som Tam,” is Laos’ national dish. It’s a vibrant salad centered around shredded green papaya. The salad combines papaya with various ingredients to achieve a balanced flavor profile. The dressing usually includes lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, and chili peppers, creating a mix of sour, sweet, salty, and spicy notes.

Additional elements like tomatoes, green beans, carrots, peanuts, and sometimes fermented fish sauce or dried shrimp enhance the flavor. Traditionally, the salad is prepared using a mortar and pestle, ensuring the ingredients’ flavors and textures blend well for a crunchy and tangy outcome.

Green papaya salad’s popularity extends beyond Laos to Southeast Asia due to its refreshing nature, ideal for hot climates. This dish’s harmonious blend of bold flavors and textures makes it a staple in Lao cuisine, highlighting the nation’s rich culinary heritage.

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