Pounded salads are a staple on the streets of Thailand often eaten as a snack with some sticky rice or as part of a larger meal. Originating around the Laos and Isaan (northeastern Thailand) border it has spread across the country with a bunch of different variations. Som tam – a pounded salad made from green papaya – is the most commonly found variety of these types of salads in Thailand. A simple alternative when green papaya isn’t to hand is this recipe for tam dtaeng kwaa.
Pounded cucumber salad with peanuts
and beans recipe (Tam dtaeng kwaa)
1 long cucumber
2-3 red birds-eye chillis depending on how hot they are
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 scant tbsp of palm sugar
3 pieces lime*
2 tbsp fried peanuts
1 tbsp dried shrimp
1 tbsp tamarind water
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp nam pla
6 cherry tomato halves
green beans or 6 long snake beans if you can get them
*How to cut a lime: first slice it in half long ways, then into 3 or 4 wedges depending on the size of you lime a la fish and chips or in the neck of a bottle of beer and then cut each of these wedges in half. You should end up with 12 or 16 pieces per lime.
- Start by peeling the cucumber and deseeding it.
- Now cut the cucumber into chunks about the size of your thumb then put it to one side.
- Next, pound the chillies and garlic in a clay mortar and pestle until reasonably smooth, add the palm sugar and pound some more.
- Put the limes in the bottom lightly muddle them to release the juice.
- Add the peanuts and dried shrimp and crush a bit.
- Add the tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and cucumbers.
- Now scoop and pound the salad at the same time. One hand pounds whilst the other one tosses the salad with a flat spoon and so on – this technique will slightly bruise the cucumber and if it breaks a little that’s no problem as it will assist in absorbing some of the dressing and flavours.
- Add the beans and tomato halves and bruise slightly.
- Taste the dressing and adjust if necessary – it should taste sweet, spicy, sour and a just enough salinity to season.