Som Tam Ago, I Fell For Larb Woon Sen Salad
Cheesy title, I know, but the Thais love their puns. Just look at the names of Thai restaurants - Thairrific, Thaitanic, Thaiphoon. You get my drift.
Anyway, for those who didn't get it because they've been living under a rock and had never heard of Som Tam, I'm referring to the ubiquitous papaya salad. Refreshing, light, crunchy, supposedly healthy, and available on every street corner in Thailand. Som Tam is to this country what caesar salad was to the US in the 80's: it is immensely popular, and the perfect light start to a spicy Thai meal. It has stood the test of time, survived salad fads, and is ridiculously cheap. Personally, I find Som Tam either too sweet or too tart, and the crunchy texture fails to appeal.
That's right. I spurn the Thai-mless treasure for its savoury, meaty, mouth-watering competitor: Larb Woon Sen.
Larb Woon Sen is a mince meat (larb), glass noodle (woon sen) salad that is usually available at a stall that offers Som Tam and it's usually served slightly warm. The meat and glass noodles are quickly cooked in boiling water, drained, then tossed with a fresh salad of onion, lettuce, tomato and chinese celery, and a dressing of lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. The best versions come with broken rice for added texture. And I LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
When I'm in Thailand, I have it at every meal except breakfast. It's got protein, veggies, and gluten-free glass noodle, and is supremely umami-ly delicious. If you've never had it, give it a go the next time you're at a Thai restaurant near you (The Catcher in the Thai??), or in Thailand.
I never Thai-yer of it.