- 2–3 Thai chiles, chopped (if you love spicy food, add more to taste; be sure to wash hands thoroughly after cutting, or wear gloves)
- 1 disc or ¼ cup palm sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6–7 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut with kiwi peeler or large grater, about 5 cups
- ¼ cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 4–5 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, about ½ cup
- 6–7 green beans, washed and cut in half
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste
- 1 lime, juiced
About this recipe
When you’re a locavore, sometimes you have to get creative with ingredients.
Scott Hochstetler grew up in Thailand and moved stateside to attend college in Goshen many years ago. He missed Thai food almost immediately and realized the only way to taste the dishes of his childhood here was to learn how to cook them himself.
Hochstetler loves green papaya salad but also knows that getting green papaya in the Midwest is difficult. The fruit he found in Michiana was never quite fresh or crunchy enough. I told him that I’d once read that kohlrabi is a good replacement for green papaya. So, he gave it a try and created a local twist on the traditional som tum.
Kohlrabi has much the same texture as fresh green papaya and is harvested here in the fall. Look for palm sugar and fish sauce at a local Asian market. We recommend using a kiwi peeler, food processor, large grater, spiralizer or carrot peeler to cut up the kohlrabi, and a mortar and pestle for pounding the ingredients into paste, but feel free to improvise. You could use a food processor to create the paste and then mix the whole dish together with a wooden spoon.
Enjoy this dish in the traditional way with sticky rice and Thai barbecue chicken. We dare you not to drink up the leftover sauce at the bottom of the bowl. It’s so good!
Do you substitute ingredients in your favorite recipes to make them fresh and local? Let us know by tagging @EdibleMichiana with a photo on Facebook or Instagram!
Kohlrabi Som Tum
Recipe by Scott Hochstetler
Pound the Thai chiles, palm sugar and garlic together using a mortar and pestle (or use a food processor) to make a paste. Add 1 handful of kohlrabi (about ½ cup); pound and mash with the pestle. Add peanuts and roughly smash them. Add tomatoes and another handful of kohlrabi. Gently bruise the tomatoes so they begin to release their juices. Add green beans and the rest of the kohlrabi; pound gently. Mix together with a serving spoon. Finally, add fish sauce and lime juice, gently mix together with the spoon and serve.