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How Katoi Makes Its Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Welcome to The Hot Dish, a behind the scenes look at the making of the dishes of the moment. Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard visited Katoi, to observe the step-by-step process of creating Som Tum Thai.

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Since debuting in March, Katoi has feverishly kept pace with the nightly masses of Detroiters passing through its doors. The menu is really unlike anything else offered in the restaurant community right now, delivering Northern Thai flavors and preparations that are fresh, complex, and well-spiced. A whole section of Katoi's dishes are devoted to vegetables ranging from seasonal stir fried fiddleheads to thrice cooked sweet potatoes. One particular house favorite that also happens to head up the vegetable list, is the Som Tum Thai — a spicy green papaya salad.

A mixture of sweet with a big helping of spicy, it's a crisp, refreshing option for summer and goes well with a side of jasmine rice. The dish starts with a few essential ingredients including unripened, shredded green papaya, sliced long beans, tomatoes, fiery Thai chilis, and lime juice. But behind the scenes, even more details go into the dish.

One of the kitchen staffers Ciara Ball helped prepare the salad, starting with an enormous clay mortar and a thick wooden pestle. To the mortar she added a few chili peppers, cloves of garlic, long beans, and dollop of palm sugar, crushing everything together until the garlic and chilis turn into a vibrant orange paste. To that she adds a generous handful of fresh, long unripened papaya slivers, which is also pummeled and softened with the mortar. Quartered cherry tomatoes are added, as well as fish sauce, lime juice, and peanuts. Each is integrated into the overall flavor profile with the mortar. The dish is poured out onto a plate and cleaned up for presentation. Take a look at the process in the gallery above.


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