You don’t find spring roll pastry in Sainsbury’s let alone green papaya for Som Tam. The same goes for M & S and this says a lot about the retail market in the UK. No problem if you are looking for ready made and frozen.
But if it is going to be home cooked you need to know where to look. In Portsmouth, if it’s Thai you are after, you want to find the Thai & Asian Food Mart. Around the corner from the Fratton station. Besides green papaya they stock almost everything you might need. Although I am not sure whether they have the spring roll pastry.
Scratching through the fridge crammed full of fresh ingredients I found small trays of Sadtaw. A bitter young bean like seed which blends perfectly with into a hot Thai curry. Which when bought in a village market, come in a long, flat and wavy, over-sized, bright green seedpod which are usually bound together with a rubber band.
Pak bung, wild morning glory water spinach and cha-om which is a ferny young leaf shoot. A well-loved herby vegetable that is cunningly secreted into Thai omelettes to hide those spikey bits which you get even in the tender tips. Not to forget to mention the short stocky Thai bananas which I think are called gluay nam wa.
But with fifty odd different varieties of banana in Thailand you can never be sure which is which. But if it is Thai there is a good chance you can find it. Jasmine rice, sticky rice, black rice, rice noodle sticks in the three prescribed sizes. Oyster sauce, mushroom soya sauce and fish sauce. Bottles of all sorts, tins of coconut milk, jars of palm sugar and packets of dried chilli.
They even stock Birdy iced coffee in cans, bottles Oishi teas and the notorious Mama instant noodles.