Pho and Tum Mak Houng

I would never have thought that Pho and Tum Mak Houng (spicy papaya salad) would go well together. We ate at one of my sisters’ house on New Year’s Day. She made Pho and my GI Joe sister made Tum Mak Houng.  Below is my oldest sister helping preparing the meat balls for Pho, she is visiting from NYC.

My sister used celery and green onion leaf for garnish.

Lime for taste

And grilled garlic in hot oil for garnish.

Thai basil for garnish.

Her Pho stock is different from mine.  She used a whole garlic bulb, onion, celery stalks, star anise, salt, 3 types of soy sauce including black soy sauce, oyster sauce,  and beef spareribs. She boiled her Pho stock for 1 – 2 hours.

These are the spareribs from her Pho stock and she served as a side dish.

She used dried noodle and soaked in cold water for 1 hour. Then dipped in hot boiling water for a few second to let it cook.

The black soy sauce gives it a dark color and sweet flavor.

My GI Joe sister made Tum Mak Houng, she is also visiting from NYC. Her dish has a sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. I never knew to add salt to my Tum Mak Houng and is a little heavy to the shrimp paste and fish sauce flavor, which has a strong pungent odor.

We only have frozen chili peppers this time of the year, these are from my dad’s garden.  They do sell fresh chili peppers at the Asian store but she didn’t buy any.

My GI Joe smashed and mixed well the following Ingredients in a mortar and pestle.

1 table spoon shrimp paste
1 table spoon fish sauce
1 and 1/2 table spoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon MSG (optional)
4-6 chili peppers
1 garlic cove

Then add 3 thin slices of lime

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Smashed and mixed well with the rest of the ingredients.

Add about 2 handfuls shredded papaya or approximately 3 cups, smashed and mixed well with the ingredients.

Tum Mak Houng tastes good with Pho as a side dish when it is extra spicy. I shot a video at my dad’s house today and it’s too funny, not sure if I will post or re-shoot the video. It seems that everyone wants to be in the video.


  1. Looks like you had a great time with the sisters in town. Not to mention – good food!

    We also had Pho and it was really good. My version is also different. Instead of stock, I used “Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base”. Then let it simmer with bunch of herbs and spices. Pho is a neat dish because everyone mixes it to suit their taste. 🙂

    • Cambree, the “Better Than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base” sounds really good, I’ve never tried this. If I made chicken I normally use half a chicken to boil for the broth and let it simmer with carrots, onion head, cinnamon sticks, salt, black soy sauce and other herbs that come in a Pho package that they sell at the Asian store for 1-2 hours. I guess this is one of the dishes that tastes different even thought it comes out from the same Pho stock pot and you can fix it your way.

      It is nice to see all my sisters again, and Lee is looking forward to visiting them in NYC, not sure when that will be. 🙂

    • Hi Geni, hope you had a good holidays. We don’t get together too often and it’s really nice that they could visit during the holidays. 🙂

  2. hmmm tum mark hoong looks good..

    Last week I made a big pot of pho as well.. I did it little different than your sister and I don’t like to use dry noodle. I prefer fresh noodle better and I still soak on water prior to cooking it. I’ll post some pictures on my blog soon.

    • Hi seeharhed, sometimes I like to roast all my ingredients first before putting in the hot boiling water. It’s totally different from the way my sister does it. The fresh noodle is good, here they brought them frozen and let in thaw and sell it in smaller bag and sometimes they can’t sell it then it sits there for a long time so it is not so fresh anymore. I don’t like to take my chance not knowing how long it has been sitting in the fridge so I always buy the dried kind. I hope to see your Pho photo soon. 🙂

  3. Mmm, there’s just something about tum maak hoong that makes me salivate and I just made tum maak taeng last night! It’s different and always better, in my opinion! 😀

    • Hi Laotian Commotion, thanks for your visit and comment. I like tum maak tang also, I have to say that Tum is a soul food for Lao people. 🙂

  4. I love tam mak houng!!! I am white, married 30 years to a wonderful laotian man. I love to cook lao, tam mak houng is one of my favorites, when I was pregnant with my 3rd child , I ate it every day!!!! Even spicier than my husband eats it!!! He would just look at me totally amazed that he couldn’t eat it as hot as me! Love your blog!

    • Thanks Debi for your visit and comment. I could eat tum mak houng everyday also and actually had it for dinner. My husband is Lao and can’t eat spicy food, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t like tum mak houng that much so I could fix it anyway I want. 🙂

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