What’s Cooking: Chilled Tomato “Som Tum”

Tomatoes in the market in Morocco

Drawn in at first by the hyper-perfectionism of the ASMR Youtube channels of Honeyjubu and Hamimommy, I have since migrated to the picture-perfect videos of Kimi, whose life in the South Korean countryside makes me want to set up shop somewhere in Loei with a dog, two cats, and my talent for killing all plant life. I, too, want to sit in a clear stream in the summer heat, enjoying fresh peaches and steamed ears of corn that I’ve grown and picked myself. I, too, want to keep soybean paste and kimchi in big ceramic vats out back of my house, and melt snow in big metal bowls in order to feed my houseplants, because water from the sky is superior to all other water in this setting. I want to spend my autumn mornings with a bunch of other people making kimchi out of cabbages and radishes and mustard greens (again, that I’ve grown myself). Alas, I am where I can usually be found: on my couch in my living room in Bangkok, watching TV.

One dish that I’ve really been taken by — especially as we’re officially in the dog days of summer — is the chilled tomato “pickle” that Koreans make to use up all the excess tomatoes that they have on hand. I decided to try my hand at a Thai-ified version of that dish, keeping the skins on because I am deeply lazy and bruising the tomatoes with a mortar and pestle, som tum-style.

I have to note that Thai people won’t consider this a som tum and more of a yum because there’s no dried chilies, fermented anchovy juice or dried shrimp, etc in the sauce. I say to them that they are being narrow in their definition of som tum, and that all you need is the “tum” action of the mortar and pestle, but this is the kind of Thai culinary minutiae that is sooo boring for outsiders to witness. When someone starts railing about the spelling of “larb” I just want to jump out the window; it’s the Thai inside-baseball version of being Colin Robinson the energy vampire in “What We Do in the Shadows”. No one cares! Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Chilled tomato somtum (Serves 1 or 2 with other dishes)

-3 ripe tomatoes, skin on or off, cut into quarters or in halves depending on size

-1/4 of an onion, diced

-handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

-1-3 fresh chilies, depending on your spice preference, bruised and chopped

-1 Tbsp fish sauce

-Juice of 1 lime

-1 tsp white sugar

In a mortar and pestle (or a mixing bowl with a potato masher), bruise tomatoes until their skins are split and some of the juice is in the mortar/bowl. Add onions, chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and taste seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Add cilantro leaves, mix and chill in refrigerator for up to 1 day.

I tried to mash these tomatoes in a mixing bowl with a potato masher even though I have a mortar and pestle

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