Best Laos Papaya Salad Tum Mak Hoong Recipe

Laos Papaya Salad, also known as Tum Mak Hoong, is a popular appetizer in Southeast Asia.

The refreshing cold salad is prepared with green papaya, garlic, spicy red chili, fish sauce, shrimp paste, long bean, tomatoes, carrots and lime juice.

Serve Lao Papaya Salad as a side dish with your favourite Thai coconut curry, fried rice, stir fried noodles or egg rolls.

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Travel to Southeast Asia by Making Lao Papaya Salad at Home

I love traveling through Asia. My first visit had me living in South Korea for a year as a teacher and it’s where I was first introduced to fermented vegetables like kimchi.

After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout southeast Asia for 6 months, visiting the PhilippinesIndonesiaMalaysiaSingaporeCambodia, MyanmarThailandVietnam and Laos.

I spent two weeks traveling through Laos. The adventure began in Chang Mai, Thailand, where I embarked on a 24 hour journey by bus and boat to Luang Prabang. I then hopped on a series of buses with stops in Vang Vieng and Vientiane.

What I found most fascinating is Lao’s distinct regional food cultures with many popular dishes finding inspiration in the countries colonial roots from France. Much like the regional cuisines found in GermanyItaly or Spain, each town in Laos had its own local speciality.

While there are many distinct dishes in Laos, since the country was once part of the Kingdom of Siam, the cuisine is similar to Thailand.

Ingredients you'll need to make Lao Papaya Salad.
Ingredients you’ll need to make Lao Papaya Salad.
Shred unripe green papaya on a cheese grater or in a food processor.
Shred unripe green papaya on a cheese grater or in a food processor.

Where To Eat Laos Papaya Salad

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Laotian or Thai restaurant that serves traditional Tum Mak Hoong.

Haven’t traveled to Laos before? It may be helpful to first sample Tum Mak Hoong at a local Thai restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can also assess the variety of ingredients used and sample the correct texture before trying to make cold Laos Papaya Salad at home from scratch.

In Toronto, there is only one distinct restaurant that specializes in dishes from Laos. Sabai Sabai in Yorkville is owned and operated by two restauranteurs who are originally from Laos.

I spent months researching the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, visiting popular restaurants that serve authentic Thai and Laos dishes such as Sukothai, Khao San Road, Pai, Kiin, Bangkok Garden, Mengrai Thai and Favorites Thai BBQ. If you’re looking to sample traditional Laos Papaya Salad in Toronto try visiting one of these award-winning restaurants.

Traditionally Laos Papaya Salad dressing is made in a mortar and pestle.
Traditionally Laos Papaya Salad dressing is made in a mortar and pestle.
Combine vegetables with Laos Papaya Salad paste in a large mixing bowl with lime juice.
Combine vegetables with Laos Papaya Salad paste in a large mixing bowl with lime juice.

What Is Laos Papaya Salad?

Tum Mak Hoong is a popular spicy salad in Laotian cuisine. “Tum” means pounded, as the unripe shredded green papaya and other ingredients are traditionally pounded together in a mortar and pestle.

“Mak Hoong,” translates to papaya. Unripe papaya has a crunchy texture and the combined flavours of spicy, salt, sweet and sour offer this cold Asian salad a refreshing and complex satisfaction.

In authentic recipes for Laos Papaya Salad you’ll find unripe shredded green papaya, shrimp paste, spicy chilies, garlic, cherry tomatoes, long bean, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. Some recipes also call for crab paste and Thai eggplant.

Cooks in Laos typically use a fermented fish sauce called Padaek when preparing the country’s national salad. It is a fish sauce condiment that has also been cured. Padaek is thicker than fish sauce and often contains pieces of fish. It is very pungent so we only suggest using it if you are enthusiastic for foods that taste really fishy. If you don’t have access to padaek or prefer a milder seafood flavour simply flavour the salad dressing with fish sauce.

Stir Lao Papaya Salad ingredients with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl until fully combined.
Stir Lao Papaya Salad ingredients with a wooden spoon in a large mixing bowl until fully combined.

Tips For Making Tum Mak Hoong

If it’s your first time making Laos Papaya Salad we suggest you first start by reading the ingredients list and recipe directions below.

The best Lao Papaya Salad is made in a large mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortal and pestle at home you can mimic the preparation method by using a cheese grater and French knife.

By slamming the flat end of a knife against raw garlic cloves and chili pepper you can ensure a similar pulverized consistency. Add the shrimp or crab paste to the mashed garlic and chili to form a well-combined salad dressing.

Prepare your green papaya by first slicing the fruit in half and removing the seeds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the fruit before shredding with a cheese grater. You can also use a food processor with a grate attachment.

Place the shredded green papaya in a large mixing bowl and add shrimp paste, garlic and hot pepper mixture. Mix the Laos Papaya Salad with sugar, fish sauce, long bean, carrots, tomatoes and lime juice. Taste and add more sugar, lime or fish sauce until you have found the perfect balance of sweet, salty and sour.

It can be challenging to find unripe green papaya in North American grocery stores. I visited 5 grocery stores in Oakville and they only carried ripe papaya, which you can not use in this recipe. The best place to find green papaya is by visiting a local Asian supermarket or grocery store that specializes in selling Chinese or Indian produce.

Serve Laos Papaya Salad in a large bowl at the table family-style or in small salad bowls.
Serve Laos Papaya Salad in a large bowl at the table family-style or in small salad bowls.

What To Serve with Tum Mak Hoong

This popular cold salad from Laos is typically enjoyed as a side dish to compliment creamy curries like Thai Beef and Pumpkin Curry or Thai Red Prawn Curry.

It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days so store it in an airtight container and enjoy leftovers as a quick and easy lunch at work.

If you’re hosting a large dinner party, pair the cold salad with a hot soup, stir fried noodles, curry, Indian Chickpea Crepes or Banh Xeo.

If you have vegans or vegetarians joining you for dinner this dish would not be suitable unless you make substitutions. Ask your friends if they are pescatarians and can eat fish sauce and shrimp paste.

If you’re aware of their food habits in advance, you can make homemade vegetarian fish sauce and have guests top their Laos Papaya Salad. You don’t want to exclude fish sauce from the recipe as it is a distinguishing flavour component. The vegetarian alternative provides the salty and umami forward flavours thanks to miso and mushrooms.

Tum Mak Hoong is a spicy cold salad from Laos best topped with Thai red chilies.
Tum Mak Hoong is a spicy cold salad from Laos best topped with Thai red chilies.

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Store Lao Papaya Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Store Lao Papaya Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Best Cold Laos Green Papaya Salad Recipe

Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Lao Papaya Salad

Looking to make the best Lao Papaya Salad? Our traditional Tum Mak Hoong recipe features green papaya, spicy chili, shrimp paste, fish sauce and long bean.
Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Lao Papaya Salad, Lao Salad, Papaya Salad
Servings: 4
Calories: 90kcal

Equipment

  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Food processor
  • cheese grater
  • French knife
  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • vegetable peeler

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Green Papaya shredded
  • 1 Garlic clove minced
  • 3 Red Thai Chili sliced
  • 2 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 1 cup Long bean cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1/2 cup Carrots Julienned
  • 1/2 cup Cherry tomatoes halved
  • 3 tbsp lime juice

Instructions

  • Peel the outer layer of the papaya with a vegetable peeler. Shred the flesh of the papaya using a cheese grater.
  • Combine garlic, chilies, salt, sugar and shrimp paste into mortar and pestle and grind until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • In a large bowl add shredded papaya, beans and carrots, and then add the fish sauce and lime. Add contents of mortal to the mixing bowl and mix until all ingredients are combine.
  • Garnish with cherry tomatoes and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 90kcal | Carbohydrates: 21.5g | Protein: 2.3g | Fat: 0.4g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 482mg | Potassium: 385mg | Fiber: 2.5g | Sugar: 13.6g | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg

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