Every culture has its street food. Here in New York, it’s hot dogs and knishes. In Italy it’s the panino (the singular form of panini).
In Thailand, it’s tum dong der, which translates to papaya salad, and up until now you had to journey halfway around the world to experience it. But now Somtum Der, a restaurant in Alphabet City, has brought the recipe to your doorstep.
Varied in styles and materials, tum dong der centers on a wide array of condiments, vegetables and other tasty tidbits, all combining to blend contrasting flavors and aromas.
Two variations on the tum dong der theme will be available on the restaurant’s menu this fall: the Central Thai style and Isan style found in the northeastern part of the Southeast Asian nation. Both variations are presented on the traditional threshing basket.
Somtum Der’s owner, Thanaruek Laoraowirodge, explains the provenance of the dish:
This sharing of food in culture signifies communal spirits, unity and simple, rustic lifestyle that have always been Isan traits. Sadly, encroaching developments have begun to chip away at such lovely traditions, but we are proudly representing Isan culture in its most authentic form.
For the truly adventurous, a recipe appears below. Proportions vary and are largely a matter of taste, especially when it comes to Thai red chilies. Most ingredients are available these days in supermarkets, though specialty groceries found around the city will have the lesser known items.
Somtum Der is located at 85 Avenue A (bet 5th and 6th Sts), (212) 260-8570.
- 1-2 red chilies (bird peppers)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbs. unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1 Tb. dried shrimps
- 4-5 pieces of cut long bean (1-1/2 inch long segments)
- 4-5 cherry tomatoes
- 3-4 pieces of cut lime
- 1.5 Tbs palm sugar
- 2 Tbs fish sauce
- 1 Tb Tamarind juice
- 200 gram of julienned peeled unripe green papaya — in strips 2-3 inches long
- Put chilies, garlic cloves into the mortar, use the pestle to pound chilies & garlic until medium crushed.
- Add the peanuts and dried small shrimp and pound again. Stir well.
- Add the long bean and cherry tomatoes, and lime and crush them to bruise using pestle. Stir well with large spoon.
- Add fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind juice and stir to mix.
- Add the papaya and stir to mix with the rest of the ingredients and transfer to a serving plate.