Yesterday I got highlights done in my hair while learning how to make som tum, Thai papaya salad. It was the best haircut highlight session of my life.
Usually after I get the foil put in my head that makes me feel like a space alien, I have to sit still and pick up a dog-eared glamour magazine from a towering pile sitting on the table next to me, or I sit in the spinny chair and search for something else to talk about with my hairdresser like where she got the tattoo on her forearm.
But this time, while the foil stuck out of my head, I got to peel papaya while watching my Thai hairdresser crouched down, and bok-boking in her stone mortar and pestle shredded papaya, mini sour and sweet tomatoes, long green bean, Thai chilies, peanuts, fish sauce, sugar and lime.
After our som tum session, my highlights were set.
It all started when my friend from church told me she had a Thai hairdresser who is an accountant, but loves to cut hair out of her home as a hobby. The only Thai people Dom and I have met the past few years in America were servers or chefs at Thai restaurants, so I couldn’t wait to get my hair done and actually carry on a conversation with a Thai person other than my husband.
We talked nonstop the whole time, especially after I found out she and her family had owned three Thai restaurants in the Austin area. Then we talked about our favorite Thai food to cook, and she gave me some Thai recipe ideas and told me the many things she grows in her backyard that made me want to live at her house: leomongrass, kaffir lime trees, Thai chili peppers, Thai basil, mint, and the list goes on.
Then after I asked her what she uses to peel her papaya for som tum, she was astonished I didn’t know what to use to peel the papaya. My hubby and I had attempted to make som tum once, but he shredded it old-school style using a knife to hit it in spots, and then shred it off that way, which wasn’t quite the consistency we like. Also, my hubby wouldn’t allow me to do it that way since I would most likely cut off my fingers in the process.
So once my foil was in she showed me to her kitchen where we went to town making som tum, which is her favorite dish, and it constantly lives in her fridge. Then after she finished washing and cutting my hair, she sent me home with a Ziploc bag full of som tum to give to Dom, moo palo sauce she made to make a pork with stewed egg Thai dish that Dom loves, some Thai chili peppers, cilantro root and lemongrass fresh from her backyard garden.
I can’t wait till my next hair appointment.
And until then, I’ve been perfecting my som tum skills. I discovered it’s super easy to make, once you have the right tools—or the right hairdresser.
The best tools are to have a stone mortar and pestle, but I just used my wooden one and it worked ok, and a special peeler. The one my Thai hairdresser used that I’m eagerly awaiting to arrive in the mail is the Kom Kom Miracle Knife. So once you have those, it’s so easy even my son Rocco can make som tum! Try it today, and let me know what you think!