Tom yum, a spicy soup, green curry and som tam, a spicy papaya salad, are some classic examples of Thai cuisine. While tom yum and green curry originate in central Thailand, som tam is a staple of northeastern Thai cuisine.
Tom yum soups are made with a rich, clear broth flavored with slices of fresh galangal root, stalks of fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and tamarind paste along with fish sauce and chili peppers, which are nearly ubiquitous in Thai cooking. Tom yum soup is most often made with shrimp, though it can also be prepared with chicken or firm white fish. It is usually finished with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
Green curries are made by combining green curry paste and coconut milk with protein, most often chicken, and miniature eggplants. The dish is flavored with Thai basil and spicy chilies.
Som tam is prepared with finely shredded green papaya, peanuts, cherry tomatoes, green beans, chilies and garlic. It is traditionally made by mixing the papaya with the other ingredients after mashing them together in a crock. The dressing is made with lime juice, fish sauce, tamarind water and shaved palm sugar. Som tam is almost always served with sticky rice.