The first and only dish anyone has ever taught me was Som Tam…
This recipe begins with a vibrant Thai woman whom I call Mrs. Pam. Although she claims to be sixty seven this year, she looks as though she is in her early forties and prances around as if she is in her twenties. Mrs. Pam’s small build and nimble movements, according to her, is largely due to the healthy diet of the Thai people.
Two years ago, Mrs. Pam welcomed me into her home for dinner. I imagined Pad Thai dancing on top of a flaming wok, the aroma of curry and jasmine rice mingling in the air or maybe a coconut milk infused soup. Instead, I walked into an aroma-less kitchen. The floor was lined with outdated newspapers and super market ads. I recall glancing over the make shift cover in confusion; sugar, garlic, chilies, limes and a papaya that was obviously too raw to eat. Although the conversation we had is a blur to me, the lesson stuck. Recipes were made to be broken.
“How much do I use of each ingredient?” I asked in utter disarray. She simply and confidently answered, “As much as you want.” Needless to say, my Som Tam tasted like a spicy Jolly Rancher. Not my proudest moment. Mrs. Pam taught me that recipes are just guides and flavors are going to be received differently by everyone. The recipe that follows is my preferred way of enjoying this salad; please change to your personal tastes.