This salad has become my obsession and addiction of recent weeks. Maybe it is due to the green papaya which I have tasted here for the first time or maybe it’s the unusual, perfectly balanced hot, sour and sweet dressing… The truth is that after five or six meals in recent two weeks, instead of getting bored, I crave it more and more.
I suspect that a big part of my enchantment is due to the green papaya. Did you know that green papaya is simply unripe papaya? I suppose all my Asian friends will laugh here at my ignorance, but I’m still in awe at how huge is the difference between unripe and ripe fruit stage. While I am not fond of the ripe papaya’s overwhelming aroma, I adore the green one’s subtle, delicate scent and crunchy texture. I intend to explore more recipes from South-Eastern Asian countries and India, where apparently green papaya is very popular. Apparently papaya is not only flavoursome, but also healthy, so I hope it’s better than being addicted to bacon.
This salad is also my first step into the discovery of real Vietnamese cuisine. Frankly, since my only memories of “Vietnamese” food were greasy, heavy dishes in thick, sticky floury sauces, this salad was a revelation. The recipe comes from “Vietnamese Street Food” by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, a book I have recently bought when I realised I didn’t know much about this country’s cuisine and didn’t have a single Vietnamese cookery book. The book is not an introduction to the Vietnamese cuisine, but only to its street food which for me is a fascinating world, so absent in European culinary culture. It is beautifully designed, contains luscious photos and tempting recipes. While reading it I realised that many ingredients used in Thai cuisine are also used in Vietnam and, as I have already mentioned in a previous post, Vietnamese use my beloved shiso quite a lot (called tia to or ti to, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
I have slightly modified the recipe, skipping dried beef and fried shallots I didn’t have. I don’t know how much I missed without these ingredients (every time I made it I skipped them), but the result was awesome and far beyond my expectations.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):
1/4 medium green papaya
a handful of soybean/mung bean sprouts
3 Asian spring onions (white and whiteish parts only) or 1 Asian shallot (advised in the original recipe)
1 heaped tablespoon toasted and roughly crushed peanuts
1 heaped tablespoon fried onion/shallot (I have skipped it)
leaves from 4 branches of coriander
1 small bird’s-eye-chili, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 flat tablespoons sugar or Agave syrup
1 tablespoon fish sauce
juice from 1/2 lime
(shredded dried beef)
Peel the papaya and cut it into long matchstick threads (a mandolin is a good tool here).
Combine it with the sprouts, chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.
Mix the sauce ingredients and pour them over the vegetables.
Stir well, sprinkle with peanuts and serve.