Sweet Potato “Som Tam”

Recipe 20 min, plus 1 hour marinationPreparation Time 0 minCooking Time
Sweet Potato “Som Tam”

Sweet Potato “Som Tam”

20 min, plus 1 hour marinationPreparation Time 0 min Cooking Time

About this Recipe

The popular Northern Thai dish som tam — green papaya salad — is a bright, crunchy, sweet-sour-spicy salad that’s stimulating and refreshing in equal measure. This salad takes advantage of raw sweet potatoes’ texture (similar to green papaya) to deliver the dressing’s addictive combination of flavors. The key is a balance of acidity, sweetness, and umami.

The dressing is best made in a large mortar, pounding the solid ingredients into a wet paste and then whisking in the liquids. If you’re pressed for time, you can pulse everything together in a food processor or use an immersion blender, but a mortar and pestle will extract more flavor. If you’re averse to spicy food, reduce the chilies to one or none. Be sure to use sweet potatoes, not yams (which are completely different plants and not great raw). 


Serves 4
  • 2 (21 oz / 600 g) sweet potatoes, peeled and turned into 1/8-inch (3-mm) noodles using a spiral slicer (alternatively, cut by hand into long, thin strips)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 fresh Thai bird chiles, sliced
  • 1½ Tbsp (18 g) palm or brown sugar, maple syrup, or local honey
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) liquid aminos
  • 2 long beans or 6 green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 Tbsp (30 g) peanuts, toasted in a pan until lightly browned, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. Step 1
    Put the potato noodles into a large bowl. If using a mortar, begin by pounding the garlic into a paste, then add the chiles, breaking them up, and then do the same with the dried shrimp (if using), sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. When they’re all well combined, add the beans and pound them a few times to bust them up a little, letting the dressing soak in.
  2. Step 2
    Pour the dressing over the sweet potato noodles and toss to combine them thoroughly. You want dressing on every strand. Let the mixture sit, covered for an hour to absorb the flavors, then toss again. Just before serving, toss in the tomatoes, and then serve with the chopped peanuts and cilantro on top.