Green papaya salad is something we ate every single day when we visited Thailand a few years ago. It has the perfect blend of freshness, spice and flavor, and can become quite addictive. I order it in restaurants in the US also, but I am often disappointed. It sadly often tastes of bottled lime juice, cheap fish sauce, and too much salt, and the flavors rarely blend as beautifully as they did in their home country. So now I simply make it at home, because it tastes better, and is so much healthier, as well.
Are green papayas good for us? You bet, they are. Rich in two very powerful enzymes, papain and chymopapain, they help break down proteins and greatly improve digestion. Another of its enzymes, carpaine, is a powerful antiseptic which helps prevent the proliferation of unhealthy intestinal bacteria and parasites, thereby creating a strong terrain for beneficial bacteria to colonize the gut and strengthen the immune system.
Green papayas can be found in ethnic or Asian grocery stores, or, sometimes, in well stocked health food stores. It is definitely worth the trip to get a couple of them, but call ahead just to make sure they are in stock.
If you don’t own a mandoline, or shredder, you can shred the papaya using a chef’s knife. It’s not hard, but it is time consuming. After you peel the papaya, hit the flesh repeatedly with the blade of your knife (watch your fingers!) until, little by little, it shreds. It takes a little effort, but if you like to get close to your food, it’s a beautiful ritual and also makes for a prettier, because slightly uneven and clearly homemade, salad. Shabby chic on the plate. Apparently it’s the new thing. But if that process intimidates you, or if you are pressed for time, just use a mandolin or vegetable shredder to get the job done.
The flavor of Thai fish sauce is impossible to replicate by other means, but for a vegan version, use coconut aminos instead, though don’t expect the flavor of the dish to be authentic.
We will be traveling for the next couple of weeks, so the blog will be a little quiet during that time, but I promise to come back very soon with a new post and recipe. Enjoy the beginning of the summer!
Love and health!
- 2 green papayas
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted, peanuts, for garnish
- 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped spicy pepper (any kind), or to taste (optional)
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup fish sauce (or coconut aminos for a vegan version)
- 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
- Peel the papayas and shred them using a mandoline, vegetable shredder, or by hitting them repeatedly with the blade of a chef’s knife until the flesh shreds (watch your hands!).
- In a mortar and pestle, add the spicy pepper, garlic, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce and crush until well incorporated. Add to the papaya and mix well.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and mix well.
- Top with extra tomatoes, peanuts, and cilantro.
- Serve immediately.