Do I even like Supertramp? Why do I have at least two of their records? It must be because I can’t stay away from thrift store vinyl bins. Can’t do it. I guarantee you that every such bin in every thrift store in All The Land has at least one Supertramp record. Why? It’s as if there’s some wormhole that ensures this is so.
Did those boys do something saucy/controversial but not saucy/controversial enough for the music-listening masses to steamroll their recordings, so they just threw them in the Goodwill bin?
Wikipedia research says: electric piano… LSD… nervous breakdowns… personal differences… I got nothing. I guess we’ll never know.
Supertramp is one thing, but I’m not quite as ambivalent about Thai green papaya salad. I like, definitely like. It’s complex, flavorful, savory, spicy, tangy and beer-friendly.
Green papaya can be elusive, depending on where you live. If you can’t find it, I’ve heard of many possible substitutes: cucumber, jicama, carrots, unripe pears… Basically anything crunchy and mildly flavored is a good call.
The dressing is really what gives this salad its unique character. There’s lime and honey (as a substitute for palm sugar), plus fish sauce and shrimp paste (or dried baby shrimp). Those things pack a punch of savory flavor like nothing else. If you’re not a seafood person or are vegetarian, soy sauce can provide something similar; just use that instead of fish sauce and skip the shrimp.
I used a mandoline to julienne the papaya, and an extra pepper to make myself happy. It doesn’t take much.
Toss and enjoy with a cold beer, then listen to this and think deeply about whether you like it:
Me, I’m leaning toward yes.
(Item #6, I believe, from this year’s to-do)
Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
(recipe from about.com)
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 small green papaya, or 1/2 large, peeled, seeded, julienned or shredded
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1-2 cups bean sprouts
1 to 2 tomatoes, cut into long thin strips
1 fresh bird’s eye chili pepper, minced (seeds removed if you prefer a milder salad)
3 spring onions, sliced into longish pieces
1/2 cup Thai basil (or regular basil), roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss, reserving some of the fresh herbs for topping if you’d like. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste, adding more minced chili, fish sauce, honey or lime juice if you’d like.
Serve immediately. Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side.