som tam

Spicy sour salad with coconut chicken + coconut rice

I LOVE LOVE LOVE a spicy sour salad!

I make my ‘sort-of’ som tam several times a week, substituting courgette for green papaya when I can’t get it.

And today I just started playing around (playing around with food and trying out new ideas is one of my very favourite things to do).

NOTE: THIS RECIPE ISN’T ONE WITH LISTED OUT INGREDIENTS ETC AS IT’S JUST WRITTEN AS I DID IT. HOWEVER, I HAVE GONE BACK AND ITALICISED THE INGREDIENTS SO HOPEFULLY THAT’S A LITTLE BIT HELPFUL!

So instead of my usual chicken cooked on the griddle, I tried poaching it in coconut milk - well, actually the watery liquid from the tin of coconut milk plus additional water.

I simmered the quartered chicken breast in the coconut/water for I think ten minutes as wanted to make sure it was thoroughly cooked and then I drained it and when slightly cooled, shredded the chicken.

Being in a playing-with-food mood, I then cooked some rice (using my absolutely foolproof method of course) in water but also added the solid cream from the tin of coconut milk.

So now I have coconut rice and coconut chicken all ready - and that lovely rich soft coconut flavour to add to my favourite spicy sour salad flavours.

(Nope, neither poaching chicken nor coconut rice cooking look that great, but I thought I’d add the photos so that you can see that it doesn’t look appetising at this stage!).

Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam
Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam

And now for the salad.

Make a quick and easy sugar syrup for the dressing by putting one tablespoon of demerara sugar in a small pan with three or four tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. Stir to ensure all the sugar has dissolved and then removed from the heat to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

I’ve got a green papaya today but you can always use courgette in its place if you can’t find green papaya (or as I do when I’m too lazy to make a trip to the Thai supermarket).

Peel the papaya/courgette and slice with a julienne peeler.

I’ve also got a few green beans, spring onions and cherry tomatoes, so just slice these too so it’s all ready.

And I’ve a small garlic clove and one red birds eye chilli - but use more or less garlic and chilli to your own taste. Today I want the flavours softer than I sometimes do and for the one chilli to balance the soft coconut rather than overpowering it.

Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam
Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam

Using a pestle and mortar squash first the chilli and garlic into small pieces - not a total mush, but nice and small as we’re eating it raw.

Then add the green beans, spring onion and tomato and squash it all together again.

Finally add the green papaya plus a handful each of fresh coriander and mint leaves, and … yup … give it all another pounding!

Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam
Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam

Tip in the cooled sugar syrup, the juice of one juicy lime and a tablespoon of fish sauce.

Stir, mix, combine, scrunch with your (clean!) hands - whatever way you like to mix the flavours - and then taste and see if it needs any more lime or fish sauce.

Add the cooled coconut chicken and coconut rice and mix again.

This is sooooooo delicious!

I love combination of the rich soft coconut rice and chicken, with the sour spicy dressing and the fresh herbs.

In fact, I’m making this for dinner again today ….

Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam
Rachel Redlaw coconut chicken with som tam


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Sort of som tam - Thai green papaya salad

I am a self-confessed som tam FIEND.  I LOVE the stuff.  I love it all the time really, but I suppose I especially hanker after it when I've been eating too much rich food.  It's just got all my favourite spicy, sour, sharp, refreshing, gorgeous flavours going in in every single mouthful.

So today - after yesterday's all-afternoon lunch marathon involving oysters, mussels in cream and bacon, chips, bread, cheese ... you get the picture - I even woke up thinking 'yup, today's a definite som tam day'.

After a couple of cups of coffee and some fruit, the 'buts' started entering my head.  BUT I need green papaya to make som tam. BUT I need sour mango if I can't get green papaya. BUT I really can't be bothered to get on the bus and go to the Thai supermarket especially because BUT I don't want to leave the house today (except to walk the dog).

And then I remembered something important:

NO ONE IS GOING TO DIE IF YOU CHANGE IT UP A BIT.

NO ONE IS GOING TO REPORT YOU TO THE SOM TAM POLICE FOR NOT USING GREEN PAPAYA.

SO WHY DON'T YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE IN THE FRIDGE?

And, in the fridge - hurrah- were birds eye chillies, a courgette, carrots, half a green pepper and best of all, some fine green beans (which you really do need).  I basically have everything to make som tam except the green papaya.

Have it with any mix of finely sliced veg that you think will work.  Experiment.  Have it on its own, have it with sticky rice, have it with steamed rice, have it with grilled fish or chicken, but do please just have it.

Ok, so to make a nice big plateful from what I had, I used:

1 tablespoon (measure it, don't just use an enormous serving spoon) light brown sugar, or white if you don't have any.  I could only find golden caster sugar in the cupboard today so used that and it worked out fine - plus 3 tablespoons water

1-2 birds eye chillies - I like it very spicy so used two, and it was, so do just use one if you're not so keen on chillies

1 big or 2 smaller garlic cloves

approx 1 tablespoon dried shrimp (optional but really makes a difference! If you can get hold of a packet, they keep forever in the freezer and are so tiny they defrost in a couple of minutes.  And you can put them in your Pad Thai too)

around 2 tablespoons peanuts

In place of the green papaya, 1 carrot, 1 courgette and 1/2 a green pepper (you could also try red pepper or cucumber here too, but have a mix)

a handful of green beans

6-8 tiny tomatoes, or just slice or quarter some regular size ones

1.5 tablespoons fish sauce

0.5 - 1 limes (to taste)

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Put the sugar and water in a small pan, bring to a simmer on the lowest possible heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then immediately remove from heat and cool.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Then prepare the other ingredients: peel the garlic; chop the peanuts; very finely slice or julienne the vegetables that are replacing the green papaya; and cut the green beans into approx 1 inch lengths.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Do peel the veg too and remove the seeds of cucumbers, and leave out the core of courgettes.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Put the sliced vegetables in cold water or add a few ice cubes to keep them fresh.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Crush the chillies and garlic in a pestle and mortar -  you want them in small pieces but not a complete mush.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Add the dried shrimp and give them a bash too, then add the peanuts and just crush them a little more and completely mix in.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Next drain the sliced vegetables if they've been sitting in water and squeeze out as much water as possible (use a clean tea cloth or kitchen paper), or remove the ice cubes, and add the vegetables to the mortar.

 Mine's too small so I'm going to have to (1) put it on my list to get a bigger one and (2) move the whole salad to a bigger mixing bowl and go very easy on the bashing!

Then add the peanuts and just crush them a little more and completely mix in.

You just want everything to combine nicely now and mix together so go gently on the bashing and maybe use a spoon too to keep everything turning and make sure you've combined it all together.

Add the green beans, tomatoes, fish sauce, lime juice and the sugar syrup that has cooled in the pan and give it a bash again, crushing the tomatoes and breaking up the beans a little.  Use the spoon again to keep everything turning in the bowl or mortar.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Taste and stir and add more lime if necessary. I normally do, I like it very spicy and quite sour.

Then add the peanuts and just crush them a little more and completely mix in.

Then turn out onto a plate or just into a serving bowl and top with some extra chopped peanuts.  Serve on its own or with chicken, or fish and/or rice.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder som tam

Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a day, but it will also get spicier the longer it sits in the dressing - just to be warned!



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