Spicy papaya salad (Thum Mak Houng in Lao or Som Thum in Thai) is one of the national dishes of Laos. In my many years of eating the wonderful dish, I’ve found that there really is an art to making it. I also like how this little dish can be like a cultural ambassador, bringing about discussions on food and where we came from. I agree with the travel channel greats, when you share food, you share culture and experiences. There are some non Lao friends of mine in that past that don’t like it due to the spiciness or fishy smell, but those that do develop an affinity for Thum Mak Houng, they also get that watering in the mouth just from the sight and smell of it. Combined with sticky rice and chicken wings or grilled steak, it is a perfect outdoor summertime food. Our diet ranges from hamburgers to hot dogs to sushi to Lao food and every Asian cuisine off Buford Hwy, but when I see “Americans” in the random restaurants that I frequent, it makes me feel pretty good that there are adventurous people willing to go of out their culinary comfort zone. Asians can often times get accused of eating bizarre stuff, and that might unfairly color other people’s opinions of us. Share food, share culture, play frisbee, live a good life.