Spicy Cucumber Salad with a Mortar (Tam Taeng ตำแตง)

by - January 30, 2015

For those who have been to Thailand probably well aware that there are so many variations of Som Tam, spicy Thai green papaya salad with mortar. There are some that made with entirely out of fruit (ส้มตำผลไม้), with fermented rice noodles (ตำซั่ว) or with fresh vegetables e.g carrot, cucumber . Also there are some flavored with dried shrimp (ตำไทย), fermented pungent water fish (ปลาร้า), salted egg or pickled fresh water crab (ปูเค็ม).    

Spicy cucumber salad with a mortar, Tam Taeng, the recipe I am going to share with you is the variation that made with fresh cucumber, which I like it even more than the traditional green papaya salad. You may notice that I used fresh lovely Japanese cucumber for this recipe. It's simply because Thai cucumber are not available here in Tokyo and it works beautifully. So if you can't find Thai cucumber, feel free to substitute with vegetables that are crisp with mild and clean flavored, not prone to oxidation and can hold their shape well. 

Instead of pickled fresh water crab (ปูเค็ม), I add boiled blue crab to my recipe. It's because my husband doesn't want to eat and can't stand the strong smell of pickled fresh water crab. Also, frankly, I am afraid  the image of crushed body parts of those brined black decapod crustaceans  would scare non Thai readers away :-). 

You sure can add pickled blue crab to the recipe. But in my opinion, blue crab is the sweetest best tasting of all crabs which really doesn't need to be seasoned or marinated at all. 

Below is my spicy cucumber salad with a mortar (Tam Taeng ตำแตง) recipe.     

150 grams Japanese cucumber, shredded
5-6 cloves Thai garlic
4 red chili peppers (พริกขี้หนูแดง) 
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste(กะปิ)
 1 and 1/2 tablespoon palm sugar (นํ้าตาลปี๊บ)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon tamarind concentrate (นํ้ามะขามเปียก)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoon dried shrimp
50 grams boiled blue crab
2-3 cherry tomatoes 
2 tablespoon roasted peanut

1. Using a pestle and mortar, blend garlic and chili peppers into small pieces. Add the palm sugar, shrimp paste, fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, peanut,sugar, dried shrimp and blue crab. 
2. Add the cucumber and tomatoes and pound them together with other ingredients lightly.

3. Serve on a plate with assorted fresh vegetable. 


  • It is recommend to shred the cucumber into fine strips so that the spicy sauce absorbed better. Keep the shredded cucumber in the fridge until you are ready to use to ensure crispness.  
  • Don't skip the shrimp paste. It does give a kick to the dish. 

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  1. wow, simply damn delicious!!!!
    btw, i had try the Thai raw live flower crab and green papaya salad..

  2. @dentistvschef
    You tried it, really! I hope you you like that salad. Raw flower crab is my favorite too.