A litany of woes begin when you ask a strict vegetarian (no egg either) about eating out in Thailand.
For a non-vegetarian (eats everything that moves), Thai food in Thailand is a smorgasbord of delight. And easy on the purse.
But this is how vegetarians respond to eating in Thailand: 'I was hungry all the time. Vegetarian food in Thailand has fish sauce!'
Or 'McDonald's doesn't have veg burgers (read alu tikki burger).'
Or 'I survived on papaya salad (Som Tai) and raw mango salad (Som Tum Mamuang) and the guy was sweet enough not to add fish sauce or anything not vegetarian. But my jaws would simply ache chewing.'
Som Tai and Som Tum Mamuang are zesty and abuzz with flavor, but the strips of raw papaya or mango are incredibly hard on the jaw and detracts from enjoying the salad especially if that's all you've been eating.
So this version of Som Tai also uses mangoes, is good to go for vegans, Jains and dentures.
Papaya and Mango Salad
- 1 small or ½ large green papaya (if you are lucky enough to get a green papaya that is just beginning to ripen with a pronounced yellowing in the white flesh, all the better but it should not be ripe)
- Handful boiled kabuli channa or chickpeas
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 small raw mango (all the better if the mango has just begin to ripen)
- A handful or more mint leaves
- 2 green chillies, chopped fine (more if you like the heat)
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp sugar (if the mango is completely raw you may need more sugar to balance the sourness)
- Peel the papaya and grate using the small or medium grater or a julienne peeler.
Ensure there are no seeds.
Discard the skin encasing the seeds.
The Thai version uses the large-holed grater which makes the papaya tough to chew.
Place the grated papaya in a mixing bowl.
- Peel the mango and using the medium or large grater, grate into the same bowl.
You can also slice into fine slivers if you prefer.
Even if the mango is totally raw, it's never tough on the teeth.
- Dice the cucumber into ½ inch cubes.
If you are using English cucumbers (the deep green, even toned and small), do not peel.
For any other cucumber, peel the skin.
Deseed the cucumbers if the seeds are particularly large and hard.
Add to the mixing bowl.
Add the mint leaves after removing the stems.
Do not chop.
Tear the leaves with your hands as it releases flavours better without bruising the leaves.
Add the chopped green chillies and the chickpeas.
Add the salt, sugar and toss everything well.
Note: It takes at least half an hour or more for the sugar crystals to infuse into the salad, so mix all the ingredients except the mint leaves and refrigerate. Or use icing sugar.
The sugar and salt will also soften the mango and papaya making them pliable but not mushy.
Add the mint just before serving so it remains crisp and green.
You can also add half an onion, finely sliced, to the salad for more bite.