Clueless in Thailand

Learning About Papaya Salad in Chiang Mai

With my TEFL teacher, Stephen, with his Thai girlfriend, Pun.

In 2010 and 2011, I lived for 8 months in Thailand. I lived in Chiang Mai, Ao Nang and 2 different places on the island of Phuket.

I made the video below after only a couple of weeks of living in Thailand, when I was completely clueless about Thai Papaya Salad.

I’d come to Thailand, and specifically to Chiang Mai to get certified in teaching English:  TEFL or TESL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language or Teaching English as a Second Language), because I didn’t yet trust my ability to support myself as an entrepreneur.

My TEFL teacher’s girlfriend is a young, creative, delightful Thai named Pun.

Pun took me shopping at the giant Thai market near my apartment.  I LOVED this market and went there several times each week during the 2 months I lived in Chiang Mai.

My one-room apartment had a small fridge and I bought a rice cooker.  I’d buy pre-made food or the ingredients to cook my own.

The curries I’d buy were often so spicy, I’d buy extra veggies and coconut milk to extend and dilute them.

REAL Thai Papaya Salad

I thought you might be entertained by watching the way REAL Papaya Salad is made and from hearing the interchange between me and my Thai friend, and hearing her order our salad in Thai.

Below the video I give you the recipe for REAL Thai Papaya Salad.

Enjoy the video!

Why I Came to Chiang Mai

My Thai friend, Pun.

I’d left the US with a dream of supporting myself doing work related to this EFT website, but without a clear plan of exactly where the money would come from.

I wasn’t yet sure that I could support myself as an entrepreneur, so I got this TEFL training so I could get a JOB, teaching English.

I’d get my first coaching client a couple of weeks later – which fully covered all my living expenses!

Turns out I never taught English – didn’t need to, as my entrepreneurial business kicked off and I got more and more clients.  Not long after I moved to Phuket, I had my first $10,000 month!

I really enjoyed my first 2 months in Chiang Mai, and Pun and I had several adventures together.  She LOVES taking photos, and so do I.

Here’s a list of the ingredients of Thai Papaya Salad:

Papaya Salad with Salted Crab

Small dried red chilies


MSG, heaping spoonful (white salt-like crystals)

Fermented fish sauce

Lime Juice

Palm sugar

Green papaya, shredded

Tomato, small round, sliced

Eating Thai Papaya Salad inGreen Eggplant (ping pong ball sized)

Green beans, raw

Toasted peanuts

Salted crab (optional)

For mild, they put in 3 red chilies.

Some of the first Thai words I learned are “mi phed,” (pronounced close to my pet) or NOT SPICY.

I found this salad is ALWAYS spicy, even with zero chilies, probably from the chili residue from the wooden pestle and the clay mortar the salad is made in over and over.

Pun, introducing me to the amazing array of food choices at the Thai market

I also learned how to ask for NO MSG (chu rot – sort of like chew root – which usually caused a smile due to my poor pronunciation, but they didn’t pour in the heaping spoonful of white crystals).

And, back in the states, eating in Thai restaurants, I’ve never yet had one as good as those in Thailand.

I got pretty fat living in Thailand – especially after Pun introduced me to the wide variety of yummy treats, like those made with gummy sweet deliciousness, like you see below.

Yummy sweet Thai deserts

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About the Author

Natalie Hill is a Transformational Coach for women entrepreneurs. She loves empowering women to bust through their blocks so they can be who they were born to be. Contact Natalie at Google+

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