The much anticipated green papaya salad

I made this salad for dinner on Tuesday night, so the follow-up is a little late. I apologise for that. Now that I am back at work, my posts are likely to be a little further apart.

First – the embarrassing bit. My green papaya of 30 January turned out to be a ripe papaya in a green skin. The only ripe papayas I have eaten fresh have had a decidedly orange skin, but I still felt I should have known the difference. I was sorely disappointed after such a build up. Still, at least we had lots of fresh fruit in the house.

Four days later, I finally managed to get my hands on a bona fide green papaya [Yes, papaya = pawpaw. I prefer to call it papaya]. At least, my partner did. He was sick of me going on and on about green papaya salad. So he hunted one down. Awesome. I was like a kid in a candy store.

I ate a lot of this salad in my 3 years of living in Broome [thank you to Nancy for the excellent introduction to this addictive dish – and for her Nonya fish curry, which I am yet to replicate]. So I had an inkling of which flavours to use even though I had never attempted it before. I modified a recipe I found on to suit the ingredients I had at home:

Recipe #12: Som tum. Green papaya salad. Serves 8 (as a side).

To make it as I did, you will need all of the ingredients in the picture:
• a sml green papaya, peeled then grated
• 1 large carrot [I used three small ones], julienne [cur into very fine strips]
• a handful of green beans, sliced thinly on the diagonal
• 5 spring onions, trimmed then sliced thinly on the diagonal
• a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved and squashed
• 1 sml bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
• 1 chilli, sliced thinly on the diagonal [yes, I know there are two in the picture]
• ~1 cup bean sprouts [not pictured. I forgot about them and had to retrieve them from the fridge later]
• 4+ tsp fish sauce
• juice of two limes
• 2 tbsp palm sugar, dissolved in the lime juice
• ½ tsp shrimp paste (belachan), dissolved in the lime juice
• 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
• a handful of peanuts, crushed

[Green papayas are available from most oriental supermarkets. If they don’t have them, they can usually point you in the right direction.

When you are grating the papaya, stop when you hit the soft white covering of the seed sac. Don’t panic if you happen to break it – just discard any seeds that fall out.]

Mix all of the ingredients up to (not including) the fish sauce in a bowl. The fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and shrimp paste are the salad dressing [You may need more or less of something(eg. lime juice), depending on your preferences]. Pour the dressing over the salad. Garnish with the crushed peanuts and lime leaves.

Here’s what you end up with:

It was delicious, but not quite right. Something was missing. I finished the salad off progressively over the following three days and couldn’t quite reconcile myself with the solution. I was experiencing just-right flavour bursts, followed by mouthfuls that just weren’t quite there.

Next time I will:
• Forget about the lime leaves. They were too strong.
• Use tamarind instead of lime juice.
• Use dried shrimp instead of belachan.
• Not mix the coriander or spring onions into the salad (ie. put them on top with the peanuts).
• Leave the carrot out.

All that said, all that waiting and salivation was not for nought: I still thoroughly enjoyed the different textures and fresh, pungent flavours.

From a wine perspective, it matched well with red wine [Moss Wood Amy’s] and my Alsace Gewurtztraminer, which makes a nice change to the rule of rose with Thai 🙂

I served the salad with leftover filo pastries from the night before, and they tasted surprisingly good together:

Recipe #13: Filled filo pastries. Makes at least 12.

This recipe is super simple because you can choose any filling you want. I looked in my fridge and found: ~1 cup ricotta cheese (drained of fluid); ~1 cup rice; a bunch of Chinese broccoli (finely chopped); 2 cloves of garlic; salt & pepper to taste.

Of course, you also need filo pastry. I use Antonio filo pastry because you can store it in the fridge.

To make the filling, chop the garlic and place it in a medium hot pan with a little oil. Add a little salt and pepper. Once the garlic looks translucent, add the Chinese broccoli with a little more salt and pepper and keep turning the broccoli with tongs for a few seconds, until it wilts. Turn off the heat. Mix in the ricotta and rice. Taste the mixture and add more seasoning if needed.

To make the triangles, take 2 sheets of the filo. Brush one with olive oil or melted butter. Place the other on top. Cut the filo into four strips, widthways. Each strip will make one triangle.

[FYI, if you are like me and you went without a pastry/basting brush for years, you can use cling wrap to spread the oil/butter over the pastry. Just take a square of cling wrap, bunch it up and dip it into the oil/butter, then dab onto the pastry.]

Place a tablespoonful of filling near the top edge of one strip, then fold the top-right corner to the left side (it should make a little triangle at the top). Fold this triangle directly down, then across, ensuring that you keep the little triangle shape the whole time. When you get to the little flap at the end, dab on a little butter/oil and fold it over.

Place the trangles onto a greased baking tray. Cook in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 15 minutes. They may need longer or shorter – just watch for when the pastry starts to colour. Then you have them! Crispy shells of delicious savouriness.

As I publish this post, I also have a request to make of you. Please comment. Tell me what you like and hate, what recipes you would like me to roadtest, whether you have any tips & tricks to share. I am keen to hear your views.

H 🙂



    • This was pretty darned good – with definite room for improvement. I have a very specific flavour in mind when I eat green papaya salad.

      Green papaya saute is not something I have tried before. Now to source another green papaya!

      H 🙂


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