Spicy Lao cucumber salad (Tum Tang) is a salty, savory, sweet, tangy dish that is easy to put together for a quick healthy, tasty meal. The salad has extra flavors and crunchy textures that will delight your tastebuds! It's a perfect side dish or served as a main meal!
Try these Lao green papaya salad recipes for fresh salads, Thai green papaya salad, Thai spicy green bean salad and Thai green mango salad with cashew. All very popular and for very good and tasty reasons!
“Som Tum,” “Tum Som,” “Tum,” Or “Tam” are all variations of spellings for the way the salads are made. “Som” means sour, and “Tum” means the pound or crush. The vegetables, garlic, chilis, and sauces are in a mortar and pestle. This Asian cucumber salad has many different variations.
- What Is Spicy Lao cucumber salad, Tum Tang
- Why this Recipe Works
- Ingredients list for making Tum Mak Dang
- How to cut cucumbers for making spicy cucumber salad recipes
- How To Make This Recipe
- Helpful Kitchen Notes And Expert Tips
- Helpful Kitchen Tools for this Recipe
- More Thai Recipes You’ll Love!
- Spicy Lao Cucumber Salad (Tum Tang)
What Is Spicy Lao cucumber salad, Tum Tang
Spicy Lao papaya salad or tum thang has the same flavor profiles as the Thai and Lao Papaya salad or Tum Mak Hoong. However, the Lao Som tum tends to have spicier and stronger flavors with added fermented fish sauce, Pla Ra. A potent sauce that may take your nose bud for a spin if it's your first time cooking with it. Be open-minded. You'll hardly notice the smell once it's all blended in together.
Why this Recipe Works
- It’s a light dish that can be eaten by itself, as a side salad, or as a tasty starter to a meal.
- It’s healthy! Tons of vegetables are used for this salad, and you can substitute sugar for honey or agave.
- It’s quick and easy to put together. 15-20 minutes max!
- You can prepare the sauce separately if you don’t have a mortar and pestle to make it home.
Ingredients list for making Tum Mak Dang
- Cucumber. This recipe is perfect for English, Lebanese, or mini cucumbers. This is the main ingredient for this recipe, so be sure to find these, if possible, for the best tasting. Thin skins and cucumbers are best for this salad because they are crispy with a slight tang and sweetness. The extra moisture also yields excess liquids when pounded. A very good thing about this salad!
- Green beans. Long snake beans are traditionally used, but any green beans will work!
- Tomatoes. Ripe cherry tomatoes are excellent as they yield more flavor and liquid to the sauce. Any tomatoes will do. Pick slightly softer ones, if possible.
- Garlic. Use fresh raw garlic cloves; you'll want to smash these into small pieces but not turn them into a paste.
- Chilis. Use fresh Thai peppers for this recipe. Use anywhere from 1-10 pieces according to your spice level preference. Thai chilis are extremely spicy, especially when cooking with the seeds on. Don't pound the chilis until they break apart for a less spicy taste. Leave them semi-whole as the seeds will release oil that makes a recipe extra spicy. Chili flakes are an option if you are unable to find fresh chilis.
- Fish sauce. Use lighter fish sauce brands like Three Crab or Red Boat. They are less salty and have a more mild flavor.
- Sugar. Use palm sugar, brown, white, monk fruit, honey, or agave for the sweeteners.
- Lime juice. Use lemon juice as a substitute, but lime juice will give a better tangy taste.
- Tamarind. Use tamarind concentrate from a jar. These can be found in the Asian market.
- Plara. Or fermented fish. Highly recommend finding this sauce as this is the main sauce that sets Laos and Isaan Som Tom apart from Thai ones. The authentic street flavors are bottled up in this secret sauce. These can be found at your local Asian store.
- Dried shrimp. Substitute raw dried shrimp or omit
How to cut cucumbers for making spicy cucumber salad recipes
- Wash and towel dry the cucumbers.
- Cut the cucumbers in half, then carefully slice each half of the cucumber into long slivers in vertical lines.
- If the cucumbers are long, cut the thin strips into half again to get 4-5 inch pieces.
- Cut the cucumber slices with the tender seeds on the larger side, as these will get pounded and broken up easily in the mortar and pestle. We don't want extra mushy smashed cucumbers! (:
- Repeat the process until you get about 3 cups worth of slice cucumbers.
How To Make This Recipe
Step 1. Use a sharp knife, then cut cucumbers into long thin julienne slivers. *See the section above on how to cut the cucumbers for the salad.
Step 2. Lightly pound the garlic and chilis in a large mortar and pestle. Don’t make a paste.
Step 3. Add the sauces. Fish sauce, Sugar, Lime juice, tamarind, and Plara. Mix the sauces well until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Step 4. Add the sliced tomatoes and green beans. Firmly pound together, and avoid splashing the sauce too much.
Step 5. Add the cucumber and dried shrimp, then pound for a minute or so until the salads look bruised but not too crushed. The cucumber juices will marinate beautifully with the sauces at this point.
Step 6. Add the crushed peanuts (optional). Let the salad sit to marinade for 2-3 minutes while you prepare a plate with garnish to serve in.
Step 7. Serve with sticky rice, vermicelli rice noodles, or jasmine rice, or serve as a stand-alone salad. The rice and noodles will help absorb some of the spicinesses of the salad.
Helpful Kitchen Notes And Expert Tips
- Use pickling, English, or Persian cucumbers for this salad. Japanese cucumbers are an excellent option, too, if you can find some. The waxy American cucumbers are too rubbery and don’t hold flavors.
- For extra crispy cucumbers, soak the clean cucumber in an ice bath, in a bowl, for 15-20 minutes. The ice will “wakens” and crisp up the cucumbers beautifully, especially if your cucumbers are a bit older. Wipe dry with a paper towel before cutting into your crisp cucumber.
- Make the sauce separately if you do not have a mortar and pestle. Use a large bowl, then mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Use your fingers to massage all the ingredients together until the vegetables are lightly bruised. Adjust the flavors as needed.
- If your salad is too salty, add more sugar. If too sour, add more fish sauce and sugar. If too sweet, add fish sauce. Keep playing with the sauces until you’re happy with the flavors.
- Add 1-2 small slices of squeezed lime rind into the salad for the extra layer of herbaceous taste. Remove the rind before serving. In Thailand, the locals typically leave them on the plate but do not eat them.
- For added flavor and color, shredded carrots, Thai round eggplants, nuts, and or tiny raw shrimp.
- For garnishing options, try these. The traditional way to serve Som Tam is with a platter full of garnishing veggies like sliced cabbage, water spinach, Thai or Italian basil, pork rind, sliced raw Thai eggplants, Thai basil, and sticky rice or cooked vermicelli noodles. Use slice cabbage, leafy crispy lettuce, and Napa cabbage as a wrap to eat the salad.
- Once you've mastered a couple of Som Tum recipes, the next time, try mixing and using different fruit and vegetables and play around with them. It will open a world of extra tasty salads to you in ways you never knew existed! (:
Helpful Kitchen Tools for this Recipe
Plara or Padaek is a fermented sauce made from small fish, rice bran, and salt and fermented for months. The sauce is commonly used in many Laos, Isaan, and Thai dishes.
Laos Som Tum is similar to the famous Thai Papaya salad. It's a dish that originated from Laos, and Isaan then migrated throughout Thailand to become the world-famous salad it is today. The difference between Thai and Lao Som Tum is that Lao Som Tams are more flavorful and spicy and use more fermented ingredients like Padaek (fermented fish), shrimp paste, crab paste, and fish sauce.
Som Tum in Thai translates to "Sour Pounding," referring to the pounding method used to make the salad using lots of sour, tangy, sweet, and savory flavors from various sauces.
Som Tam is traditionally made in a clay mortar and pestle using green papaya. Som tam can be made with many fruit and vegetables, using Asian cucumbers, green beans, carrots, apples, mangoes, pineapple, watermelon, and so on!
These dishes and ingredients can be served with Spicy Lao papaya salad for the traditional food pairing. Chicken wings, pork belly, fried fish, grilled beef or pork, pork rind, or fish balls.
More Thai Recipes You’ll Love!
- Lao green papaya salad recipe
- Thai green papaya salad
- Thai green mango salad with cashew
- Thai glass noodle salad with shrimp
- Thai crispy egg salad, Yum Kai Dow
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