Green papaya salad combines the freshness of the various ingredients used, but the real flavor for me is the dressing. I've visited Thailand on several occasions and each time I always went to the market to taste the dressing, made of course with a homemade fish sauce. Fish sauce is usually made with anchovies, salt and water that is fermented giving it a very unique strong salty, fishy flavor. It is a recipe of southeast Asia. In my hometown Antibes, we make a pissalat sauce with fresh anchovies, using the same technique. The pissalat is used to flavor the cooked onions of the pissaladiere (a kind of a foccacia covered with onions and black olives).
But going back to the dressing for the green papaya salad, it combines palm sugar, garlic, fish sauce, Thai chili, lime juice and water. In Thailand the dressing is extremely spicy and you have to make sure you have a couple of cold local beers in hand to help. But the ingredients of the salad usually cool down the heat . We currently use shredded green papaya, jicama, star fruit, radish, pickled red onions, fried shallot, lotus root chips, kulantro and Thai basil.