Ready in just 20 minutes, this vegan som tam is an incredibly simple, yet wholly delicious Thai salad made from crunchy vegetables, dressed with a fresh and zingy hot, sour, salty, sweet sauce.
The taste explosion that is som tam (som = sour, tam = pounded) is usually made with shredded green papaya, and often accompanies sticky rice and laab (which is actually a Lao dish). This version, however, was taught to me by my dear friend, Aye (owner of Anchan in Chiang Mai), is made with green mangoes (ma muang), and is popular throughout Northern Thailand.
Prior to Aye's cooking lesson, many were the times I'd tried to eat som tam in Thailand but without fail, it was always far too spicy for me to be able to eat more than a couple of mouthfuls. Even when I'd ask for it to be phet farang (foreigner spicy, i.e. fit for chilli wimps like me)! I was so pleased when Aye taught me how to make it myself!
Ingredients for vegan som tam ma muang
- Dressing: garlic, bird's eye chilli, lime juice, all-purpose soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free), palm sugar, vegan fish sauce
- Salad: unripe mango, red onion, tomato, carrot, cabbage, red pepper, bean sprouts
- Toppings: spring onions, crushed peanuts
As can see, like most Thai dishes, this som tam is made from very simple ingredients, and what you actually put into the salad is inherently customisable.
If you don't want to use unripe mango, use green apples (e.g. Granny Smith). Or indeed, sour papaya! As long as you have a good balance of crunchy, sweet, and sour, you can customise this as you see fit.
If you want to add more chilli to this som tam then feel free to do so. Even after all these years, I'm still building my tolerance, which means I don't make this dish anywhere near as hot as Thais do. Even so, this is still a good deal hotter than I was first able to tolerate when we first moved to Thailand in early 2012.
If you can't find bird's eye chillies, you can use other evil varieties, such as pequins. Or, if you're truly wimpish (hello!), use a regular red chilli instead.
How to make som tam ma muang
Traditionally, som tam, as its name suggests, is made in a large clay mortar, called a kruk, with all of the ingredients pounded together. If you want to make it like this, it's very simple...
- Pound the garlic, and chilli together for a couple of minutes, until they become a paste.
- Leaving the garlic and chilli paste in the mortar, add your cabbage, and gently break up the fibres with the pestle.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and the peanuts, plus the rest of the vegetables, and continue to gently pound, while moving the salad around the mortar to ensure everything receives its fair share of the dressing and garlic. Do this for five minutes or so.
- Pile the som tam onto a couple of plates, drizzle over any dressing left in the mortar, add a little bit of coriander leaf (cilantro), and tuck in.
Alternatively, you could just toss all of the salad ingredients and dressing in a large bowl, top, and serve!
Tips for making som tam
- If you can't get - or don't have - coconut palm sugar (sometimes called toddy sugar), you can use jaggery. It's more than an adequate substitute.
- You can use any crunchy vegetable or sour fruit which holds its texture, colour, and shape, and is OK to eat raw; turnip, swede, banana flower, green papaya (of course) - whatever you want.
Check out some other vegan Thai recipes while you're here!
You'll love this vegan som tam ma muang
- laden with colourful veggies
- packed with vitamins
- full of protein and fibre
- good for you
- easy to make
- really, really yummy
Whether you make this using traditional or modern methods or not, and whichever veggies you use, I'm sure that you'll love this som tam ma muang. Gin hai aroi kha!
What's your favourite Thai dish?
Quick Vegan Som Tam Ma Muang (Thai Green Mango Salad)
For the dressing:
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 bird's eye chilli
- 3 tablespoon lime juice
- 3 tablespoon all-purpose soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free)
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 1-2 tablespoon vegan fish sauce
For the salad:
- 1 green/unripe mango grated
- 1 medium red onion finely sliced
- 1 large tomato sliced
- 1 large red pepper
- 1 medium carrot grated
- 50 g red cabbage finely chopped
- 50 g green cabbage shredded
- 100 g bean sprouts
- 1 tablespoon crushed peanuts unsalted
- 2-3 large spring onions finely sliced
- coriander leaves torn
- Pound the garlic and chilli together for a couple of minutes, until you have a coarse paste.
- Leaving this paste in the mortar, add your cabbage, and gently break up the fibres with the pestle.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and the peanuts, plus the remainder of the vegetables, and continue to gently pound, while moving the salad around the mortar to ensure everything receives its fair share of the dressing and paste. Do this for five minutes or so.
- Pile the som tam onto a couple of plates, drizzle over any dressing left in the mortar, and top with some spring onion and a little bit of coriander leaf (cilantro).
- Serve immediately.
- Pound the garlic and chilli together to make a paste, place in a small jug or bowl.
- Add the rest of the dressing ingredients, and mix well, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Taste, and adjust if necessary; the flavour cycle needs to be hot, sour, salty, sweet – in that order.
- Put the salad ingredients into a large bowl, and pour over the dressing.
- Toss everything together, so that all the veggies are well-coated.
- Top with spring onions, and coriander leaf.
- Serve immediately.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tablespoon = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml
This is right up my street Nico as I adore Thai Food! I didn't realise you could get vegan fish sauce, so I shall be looking to get some of that asap for all of my veggie cooking! xxx
You can buy vegan fish sauce in Chinese supermarkets, Katie (usually labelled vegetarian but it's completely vegan). It'll usually be called Nước mắm chay. I also linked to my own vegan fish sauce within the recipe - it's really easy to make, and only takes five mins! xx
I think I could happily eat this salad every day! I love Thai food and it look so delicious! I've never tried pounding cabbage in the pestle and mortar with the dressing but I like the idea -It must really help the flavours get into the cabbage.
It's definitely worth trying, Corina - think of it like massaging kale; it's a similar principle. And it breaks down the fibres, making the cabbage easier to eat. In fact, thinking about it, I suspect you could just give the whole thing a big ol' massage, and it would work just as well. xx
This looks heavenly! I am a chilli wuss too!
So sorry for the late reply, Jac - it's been hectic here (I had four days of photoshoots, and I am exhausted!). Will be sharing the link in all the places! xx
Kirsty Hijacked By Twins
Oh Nico, you have done it again! Another irresistible recipe. This salad looks amazing! Sorry for the late comment and I hope you have a good week. x
It's really fab, Kirsty - if you only try one new salad this year, make it this one. You won't regret it! LOL! xx
What a beautiful fresh looking dish - all the colours in it just make it so appetising and you've picked the perfect plate to display it in. I really struggled with the fish in everything in Thailand (but not so much the spice, maybe I ate in the wrong places!).
We found that the best thing to do was to find 'jay' places, which were quite abundant. (Identified by signs like this and this) I don't know about other places in Thailand but in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, it was easy to find vegan food. Same in Georgetown, Penang - especially with all the Chinese eateries around. Yum! xx
I have never tried mango in a salad, I usually use it in smoothies. I love how fresh and light this dish is, I will have to try it. Pinned for later, Thanks!
When we lived in Asia, we ate so many mangoes... now we're back in south central Europe, they are a really rare treat. On the plus side, they are so unripe when we get them here, they're perfect for making into salads! I definitely recommend trying it, Alison! xx
This sounds amazing!!
Thanks, Midge - I hope you try it and love it! xx
All That I'm Eating
The colours in this are so fantastic, it would be just perfect to take to work for lunch too.
Oh yes, som tam would make a most excellent lunch to take to work! xx
Sarah Newman, Vegan Chickpea
I remember this salad from my travels in Thailand a few years ago! Yes, simple and so flavorful. I was just in Hawaii and green papaya salads were everywhere there too... made me happy! 😀
Your photos are so bright and stunning! Gorgeously done.
Thank you, Sarah, I'm so glad you like the pics! I've never been to Hawaii but I always imagine it to be a fruit and veggie paradise. Maybe one day I'll go and see for myself! xx
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
That sounds so refreshing! I love anything and everything with mango!
I'm totally with you on that, Rebecca - mangoes totally rock, don't they? xx
What a gorgeous dish! It just makes me think spring is in the air and meals like this are great.
I am a spice WUSS! I can't tolerate it much at all... so chili pepper will more than do it for me. Maybe half of one haha 😉 I'm super intrigued by your vegan fish sauce too! I usually just sub in soy sauce for that in a recipe, but like the idea of making my own vegan version. How fun! I'm pinning & sharing this recipe. I hope you're having a wonderful weekend my dear.
Oh, Kimmy, I think we may be kindred spirits! LOL! I'm so happy I found HVF too - or rather, that Mary Ellen invited me to join in, finally got my act together, and did something about it! Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving such a lovely comment! xx
Thanks! This looks so good!!! Thai food is one of my favourites!!
Thanks so much, Sylvia... mine too. So yummy, eh?! xx
Wow! I don't know where to begin! I love the freshness of this salad, the finely sliced mango's, and the chili! I love Thai food! Have ever since the hubby and I visited a few years ago! This looks so colorful, flavorful, and easy to make! Plus those bright blue bowls are gorgeous!! 🙂
They are, aren't they? They're from Ikea - they seem to go with everything!
Thai food is amazeballs! I was a bit of a fan when I lived in Britain but became a huge fan when we moved to Chiang Mai - the sheer variety of fresh produce is astounding. There's not a day goes by when I don't miss Thailand. Where did you go to? xx