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Tam Sua – Mixed Hardcore Salad (only for the brave!!) :D

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A hardcore spicy salad only for the brave!!

Tam Sua is a tough variation of the well-known Som Tam even though the word Tam Sua practically means ‘salad anything’. The dish looks pretty much like the photo above every time I order it. So what’s inside? Here’s my version of Tam Sua. You’ll find that it’s really similar to a Som Tam… for the brave!

tam sua3

Key Ingredients:

  • A handful of grated green papaya
  • Some small pieces of long green beans
  • 1 Poo Kem, black salted rice field crab. Break into small pieces. Make sure you keep the legs for decoration 🙂
  • 1 spoon of Pla Raa, a seriously fermented fish
  • Lots of bird-eye chillies, the hot ones
  • Few small cherry tomatoes
  • Some Kanom Jeen, rice noodles
  • Nam Pla (fish sauce), Lime & Garlic


Any vegetables that you like, such as cabbage or bean sprouts. In this sample, we have thinly sliced eggplants. Crispy pork skin also goes well with the dish. Don’t forget the right mortar. You’ll need a mortar for all Som Tam dishes, otherwise, it feels less authentic. We don’t use stone mortar to make Som Tam though, because the stone is too heavy. It smashes the ingredients rather than crushing and mixing them nicely. Use a clay Laos Style mortar and pestle.


  • Put garlic and chilli in the mortar. Crush them slightly then put in Nam Pla (fish sauce), Pla Ra (fermented fish) and Lime Juice. Don’t throw away the lime skin, throw it in the mortar (I’m serious). How much of each ingredients you will add to it it is up to your taste.
  • Mix in the papaya and Poo Kem (crab). Crush them a little – be gentle with the papaya. You may put Poo Kem in first if you’d like. Once again, don’t over-crush it.
  • Add rice noodles. Mix the salad together.
  • If you choose to have the crispy pork skin, add them the last or put it on top. Voila!

Useful Tips:

If all this is too complicated – you’ll be happy to know that you can always order this dish from any local places that has the usual Som Tam, be it E-Sarn restaurants or Som Tam pushcarts. The upmarket restaurants that feature classic Som Tam in their menu won’t have it though, because this is really too local.

Final opinion

I tried but it’s really too ethnic (to be polite). It smells like fermented fish (to be polite) and tastes like fermented fish (to be polite).

3/5 - (4 votes)
Willy Thuan

Born in France a long long time ago, I started to travel the world early until I settled in Phuket in 1994. For the past 30 years, my passion for photography and my curiosity have taken me to every corner of Phuket, Bangkok and everywhere I could go in Thailand. My goal is to share my discoveries, photos and tips to help travellers plan their holidays by making Phuket 101 as easy as possible to use for everyone!