Adam Liaw's prawn and cucumber som tam

Photo: Prawn som tum (Daniel Mahon)

Cookbook author and television host Adam Liaw shares the recipe for his dish of prawn and cucumber som tam, the Thai staple of shredded green papaya and a spicy, punchy dressing. Liaw demonstrated this dish at Masterclass supported by Sanpellegrino during the 2019 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.

Serves 2 (or more as part of a shared meal)


2 cloves garlic

2 birdseye chillies, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained (optional)

50ml lime juice (from 1-2 limes)

1 tsp grated palm sugar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tbsp fish sauce, plus extra for seasoning

6 large Australian prawns, peeled, with tails attached

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

1 cup tailed and chopped green beans (5cm lengths)

2 Lebanese cucumbers, half-peeled in strips, seeded and julienned

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup crushed roasted peanuts

2 tbsp fried shallots

Steamed rice

Serves 4

2 cups Koshihikari rice (sold as sushi rice)


1. For the dressing, pound the garlic, chillies and dried shrimp (if using) in a large mortar to a rough paste. Add the lime juice and sugars and continue to pound until the sugar is dissolved. Taste the mixture and adjust the sweetness if necessary with more sugar or lime juice; it should be slightly sweet, like lemonade. Add the fish sauce a little at a time until the dressing tastes quite savoury. (You can also mix the lime juice, sugars and fish sauce in a separate bowl before adding to the mortar if it helps you adjust the balance of flavours.)

2. Heat a char-grill pan over medium heat. Butterfly the prawns, brush them with a little oil and grill them until just cooked (3 minutes).

3. Add the carrot and beans to the mortar with the dressing and gently crush them to bruise them and release their juices, then add the cucumber and tomato and gently crush again. (If you don’t have a large enough mortar and pestle, combine the vegetables in a large zip-lock bag and massage the bag to bruise the vegetables.) Combine dressing and vegetables with the prawns, scatter with the peanuts and fried shallots and serve.

Steamed rice

1. Place the rice in a heavy-based saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and stir with your hand. Carefully pour off the cloudy water and repeat until the water is mostly clear. Add clean water until it’s about 2cm above the rice.

2. Place over high heat and cook until the water evaporates to the level of the top of the rice and holes appear on the surface from steam escaping (about 5 minutes). Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to very low and leave for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and, without uncovering, leave for a further 5 minutes. Fluff up the rice with a rice paddle or fork and leave uncovered for 2 minutes before serving.