Thai spicy long green bean salad (Tum Tua) is a light, tasty fresh salad that is umami, savory, tangy, salty, and sweet, and full of explosive flavors that will make you crave more.
The flavor profiles of this Thai spicy bean salad are the same as the famous green papaya salad, but this one has more crunch and is high in protein, leaving you satisfied longer.
What Is Som Tum Tau?
Thai green bean salad or Som Tum Thua ((ตำถั่ว) has the same flavor profiles as the Thai and Lao Papaya salad or Tum Mak Hoong. However, the Lao and Isaan (Northeastern Thailand) Som tum has stronger flavors. The potent and pungent flavors are from the added fermented fish sauce, Plara, a common ingredient in many dishes in Laos and Thailand.
Read more about the essential sauces used in Thai cooking here.
Same Same but different
Thai Spicy green salad is a lesser-known salad than the famous Som Tum, a Thai papaya salad using green unripe papaya. They are related, coming from the same spicy, sour, sweet, delicious-tasting family. The green bean salad is quieter and understated but happy to surprise your taste buds with delightful flavors.
Why you'll love this Thai green bean salad
- Thai green bean salad is a perfect dish to serve as an appetizer before the main meal.
- Spice levels are adjustable! Make it a mild or spicy salad for your taste buds!
- It's a great salad to have as a side dish for your lunch or dinner.
- The salad is healthy! The recipe is full of healthy and colorful vegetables and ingredients.
- Vegetarian friendly. Omit the dried shrimp in the salad and make it vegetarian-friendly.
- 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. See note below.
The many names of Som Tum (Spicy salad)
“Som Tum,” “Tum Som,” “Tum,” Or “Tam” are all various spellings for the same spicy raw salads famous in Thailand and Laos. In Thai, “Som” means sour, and “Tum” means to pound (together). The other names you may see are Tum Tua, Tum Thua, Som Tum Toa, Som Tam Tua, and so forth.
The Many Som Tum Versions
The different vegetables or fruits used for making the salad are also named as the main title for the recipe to help diners identify the main ingredient used in the salad.
For example. Papaya salad is called Som Tum "Malagaow" (Malagaow is papaya). Green bean salad is called Som Tum "Tua" (Tua is beans). Cucumber salad is called Som Tum Taeng (Taeng = Cucumbers).
Ingredients list for making Tum Thua
- Fresh green beans. Long green beans are typically used for this delicious salad—use any green beans as substitutes.
- Thai eggplant. Optional but highly recommended. They are the seedy white/green round eggplants sold at Asian markets. They add extra crunch and light freshness to the salad.
- 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.
- Carrot. More healthy and colorful vegetables to the salad.
- Garlic. Use fresh raw garlic cloves; you'll want to smash them into small pieces but not turn them into a paste.
- Chili pepper. Use fresh Thai red chili pepper for this recipe. Use anywhere from 1-10 pieces according to your spice level preference.
- Fish sauce. Use lighter fish sauce brands like Three Crab or red boat. They are less salty and have a more mild flavor.
- Sugar. This recipe uses palm sugar. White, monk fruit, brown sugar, agave, and honey are excellent sweeteners.
- Fresh lime juice. Use lemon juice as a substitute but lime juice gives a better tangy taste. Use tamarind concentrate as a substitute.
- Plara. A Lao fermented fish that adds authentic pungent and umami flavors to Som Tum salads. Find them at the Asian markets near you.
- Dried shrimp. They add an extra layer of crunch, salty, and umami flavor. They can be found in the refrigerator section at most Asian grocery stores.
How do you make som tum?
A good tip for making this salad is to wash all your vegetables thoroughly with cold water. Then prep all the ingredients, have them sliced, and cut (see recipe card). Set out the sauces on the side, and you'll have a quick and smooth Som Tum-making station ready to go!
Step 1. Pound the chilis and garlic in a clay mortar and wooden pestle to break up the herbs into large pieces but do not make a paste.
Step 2. Add the green beans next. Pound these until they are well bruised and the pieces break apart but are not completely crushed.
Step 3. Add the sliced tomatoes, eggplants, and dried shrimp. Pound together again with the pestle until bruised like the green beans.
Step 4. Add the sauces: fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, tamarind, and Plara. Mix them well with the pestle and use a large spoon to scoop, swirl and toss the ingredients to get them all well blended. Go lighter on the pounding for this part.
Also, don't throw away the squeezed lime rind. Add them to the salad for the extra tart & zesty flavor from the citrus skin. Remove the lime pieces before serving. This typically leaves them on the plate, but they do not eat it.
Step 5. Add the shredded carrot last. Pound and slightly one last time for 30 seconds or so. Use the spoon to scrape the sides of the mortar to get all the run-away pieces back together. Taste your salad and use fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, or Pla Ra to customize the flavors to your taste buds. That's it! Enjoy!
Serve with sticky rice, vermicelli noodles, jasmine rice, or stand-alone salad. The rice and noodles will help absorb some of the spiciness of the salad.
How to make Som Tum Tua without a mortar and pestle
- Make the sauce separately first. You can crush the garlic and chili with a small spice mortar or a sturdy bowl.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, then massage well with your hands or a light kitchen tool until the vegetables are lightly bruised. Kitchen gloves are handy for this part.
- Add the sauce, then mix and massage the salad together again. Adjust the flavors with sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice. Serve fresh.
Use young romaine lettuce leaf, napa cabbage, regular cabbage, cucumbers, water spinach, and fresh basil leaves to serve as garnishes. Cooked rice vermicelli noodles, pork rind, grilled meat, and sausages pair well with this delicious salad.
Serve your Tum Tua with the following dishes to enjoy it like the locals
- Purple Sticky rice
- Moo Ping
- Satay chicken
- Grilled bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms
- Nam Jim Jaewo dipping sauce
- Sticky rice
- Try these salads using different ingredients and slightly different flavors. Thai green papaya salad, Lao papaya salad, and spicy cucumber salads. LINK
- Thailand and Laos have a version of this salad with wing beans. They can be hard to find in the US. If you can find some, try them out. They are light green beans about 6 inches with 4 lacey/frilly-looking sides.
The best substitution for this salad is to make it with another variation, green papaya or cucumbers, using the abovementioned recipes.
Green bean salad doesn't do well as leftovers. Please do your best to finish it all in one setting while still fresh. Leftovers get soggy, and the salad loses its fresh, bold flavors. Oftentimes, the salad will turn an unpleasant bitter taste if it's eaten as leftovers.
Helpful Kitchen Notes
- Long green beans can be found in the Asian markets. You won't be able to miss them when you see them. (: They will probably be the longest green beans you'll ever see. They are also called long string, snake, or yard-long beans.
- Your green beans salad is a raw cold salad using fresh vegetables. Ensure you wash all your vegetables thoroughly with cold water to prevent sicknesses.
- 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.
- 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
- Mortar and pestle. The clay mortar and wooden pestle set are used most often for making Thai papaya salad in Thailand. Your best chance of finding a quality mortar and pestle is at your local Asian Markets. Go on an adventure to your Asian Market and see what you can find there!
- Kiwi peeler. Kiwi vegetable peeler, buy these at your local Asian markets, or you can snag one online HERE. It's a wonderful and inexpensive kitchen tool for peeling fruits and vegetables. I used mine for peeling carrots, zucchini, cucumber, daikon, mangos, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Plara or Padaek is a fermented fish sauce made from small fish, rice bran, and salt and fermented for months. The sauce is commonly used in salads, soups, and sauces in Laos, Isaan, and Thai dishes.
Laos Som Tum is similar to the famous Thai Papaya salad. It's actually a dish that originated from Laos and migrated to Thailand's Isaan region and eventually to all other parts of Thailand.
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 like this Tum Mark Hoong recipe. But Som tam can be made with many fruit and vegetables using Asian cucumbers, green beans, carrots, apples, mangoes, pineapple, watermelon, and so on!
Various versions of Som Tams use different fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, green beans, carrots, apples, mangoes, pineapple, watermelon, and so on!
Som Tam is traditionally made in a clay mortar and pestle using green papaya. The ingredients are pounded together, and fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind, sugar, and fermented fish create the most flavorful flavors.
The difference between Thai, Lao, and Isaan Som Tum is that Lao and Isaan Som Tams are more pungent and spicy, using fermented ingredients like Padaek (fermented fish), shrimp paste, crab paste, and fish sauce. Thai Som Tum is less spicy with sweeter and lighter flavors, using more sugar and peanuts for added crunch.
More Thai food You’ll Love!
- Laab Gai, Thai ground chicken salad
- Chicken satay w
- 5 minute Peanut sauce
- Pad Mee, thin rice noodles stir fry.
- Tom Yum shrimp
- Authentic Thai yellow curry with bamboo shoots
- Authentic Thai red curry paste
- Kaffir lime leaves and substitutes
- Nam Prik Pao chili paste
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