Joyful fried chicken makes friends with fresh som tum for a dish guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It’s the perfect combo of sweet, salty, sour… with added crunch on the side! Use a julienne peeler to (safely!) get beautiful shards of that unripe papaya, and make it as spicy as you like by controlling the number of chillies you use.
4 boneless chicken thighs (preferably with the skin on)
2 cups plain flour or all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for deep frying
4 garlic cloves
2 coriander roots, cleaned and roughly chopped
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp fish sauce
Som Tum Papaya Salad:
200g (7 oz) shredded green papaya*
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 birds’ eye chillies (use more or less to taste)
2 snake beans, cut into 3cm-long batons (alternatively use green beans)
¼ cup dried shrimp, soaked in water for 5 minutes to soften
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
2 tbsp (about 20g) shaved palm sugar
1½ tbsp fish sauce
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
For the marinade, use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic, coriander roots and peppercorns to form a rough paste. Mix through the fish sauce. Then add the chicken and toss until well combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside to marinate for 10-20 minutes.
In a large som tum mortar, pound garlic and chillies until just smashed but still chunky. Drain the dried shrimp and add those. Pound lightly. Then add the green beans and peanuts and pound lightly. Add the palm sugar and pound to soften. Now add half the papaya and lightly bruise with the pestle, using a spoon to mix as you lightly pound. Add remaining papaya, fish sauce and tomatoes. Lightly pound with the pestle and mix with the spoon. Add the lime juice and mix until well combined. Taste and adjust with more fish sauce, sugar and/or lime juice to taste.
Alternatively, the salad can be made by placing ingredients in a large bowl or a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to bruise the ingredients.
Coat the chicken pieces in the flour. To cook the chicken, fill a saucepan or wok to about 1/3 capacity with the vegetable oil. Heat over high heat. Once the oil is medium-hot (320°F or 160°C or when a wooden spoon dipped into the oil forms small little bubbles), add the chicken pieces and cook for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Turn the chicken pieces as they cook to ensure an even golden colour. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.
Serve sliced fried chicken with som tum papaya salad.
– Green papaya is unripe papaya. It can be found at Asian grocery stores.