The thought of eating green papaya in any form other than som tom never sounded right to me. I know that other SE Asian cuisines use green papaya too, typically in a salad of some form or another. I know I'm going to get blasted by a certain someone whose initials are WC for saying this, but let's be honest, none of them compare to som tom.☺
But in the interest of exploration, I decided to try something different. Okay, maybe it's not that different. I didn't stir-fry it or anything. It's still a salad, but the flavors are quite different due to the addition of fresh herbs and chicken (or pork or shrimp). I was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted and would definitely make this again.
As with any salad, there's no real recipe. It's all to taste. The only important thing here is to use green papaya and not the typical ripe papayas you can get at your local supermarket. If you've never had green papaya, you may expect it tastes sour like a green mango, but it's actually quite mild. The flesh is a bit rubbery yet still has a bite, a little bit like a carrot that's lost its crunch, which, now that I think about it, doesn't sound too appealing. Hard to describe. You'll just have to try it and see. For the herbs, I recommend mint and cilantro, and feel free to use as much as you like. My first choice of protein would be shrimp (either grilled or poached), but leftover shredded chicken or shredded roasted pork would be fine too.
Green papaya salad with chicken and fresh herbs:
- 1/2 medium-sized green papaya, shredded (about 2-3 cups)
- cilantro and mint (about 1 to 2 tbs chopped of each)
- handful dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- cooked shrimp, shredded chicken or shredded roasted pork (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 to 3 scallions, whites only, chopped
- chilies, to taste, chopped
- 1 large tomato, cut into wedges (or a generous handful sweet cherry tomatoes)
- juice of 1 large lime
- fish sauce to taste
- sugar, to taste
- 1/2 tbs finely chopped dried shrimp or 1/8 tsp fermented shrimp paste (optional)
Ideally you have a mortar and pestle so you can pound the garlic, chilies, scallions and tomato together to make a chunky "paste". If not, throw the garlic, chilies and scallions into your food processor and give them a good go around to chop them well. Add your tomatoes and pulse a couple of times. You don't want to make gazpacho; you should have a chunky paste. Remove your paste to a mixing bowl and add in the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and shrimp paste to taste.
Last thing to do is to toss everything together. Adjust the seasonings one last time, then enjoy!
You know what? I actually have something to submit to Weekend Herb Blogging! Yay! I keep saying I'm going to submit, then I forget or something just comes up. The host this week is Mele Cotte.