Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Green Papaya Salad with Chicken

Do you have a food that you eat the same way every time you have it? And the thought of trying it any other way just doesn't sound appealing? I'll admit, I'm guilty of this type of rigidity.

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:
serves 2
  • 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)
If you've never handled a green papaya, here's a little explanation. It goes without saying, wash it first! Cut it in half and remove the seeds. I find it's easier to remove the skin with a paring knife rather than a vegetable peeler because the skin can be thick (like mango skin). To shred, I recommend using the Kiwi shredder with ridges (industry name= pro-slice wavy edged tool). Some genius Thai person invented it especially for this task (okay, I made that up, but it is made in Thailand). It makes quick work of the flesh and ensures the optimal thickness and length of the strands. You should be able to find it at your Asian market ($2.99 to $4.99) or order it online ($8.99 + shipping!).

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.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Haha. Why would I say anything? I love som tom. :)

Dee said...

Oh good! I love it when people agree with me :-)

helen said...

Yum, this looks so refreshing and delicious!

Manggy said...

Ooh, yes please! After that burger I just had, I need to have something light and refreshing for a meal :) You can also try pickling the green papaya (atsara/atchara here in the Philippines :).

pigpigscorner said...

hmm...don't remember having green papayas. Looks and sounds very refreshing and yummy!

Admin said...

This looks delicious! I also totally agree with you on the usefulness of the super-duper green papaya shredder; it makes the task much easier. My fingers, who used to fear for their safety and well-being, are very grateful.

QGIRL said...

I'm going to look for that Kiwi shredder. I love green papaya salad, a great summer salad alternative for sure.

Dee said...

Helen, it's definitely a good alternative to a lettuce based salad, and it's just fun to eat...crunch, crunch!

manggy, I saw Marvin posted pickled green papaya way back when. But I was still in my "only som tom" phase. I'll have to go back and find the recipe.

pigpigscorner, I would have assumed green papaya is also common in Malaysia?? Definitely worth trying if you haven't.

Leela, my mom used to make me do the chop-chop with the papaya, then complain I didn't get consistent strands. Many thanks to the person who invented this shredder!

qgirl, you life will change once you get your hands on this shredder. It's good for green mangoes, thick carrots, jicama, you name it!

gaga said...

You introduced me to the kiwi shredder and I am forever grateful! I use it all the time and have continued spreading the word about its fabulosity :)

I've never had green papaya any way besides som tom and never desired to either, but you're starting to change my mind because this looks super tasty.

Dee said...

gaga, was I right or was I right? That little tool is genius!

Payal said...

I've never had papaya before but your explanation of how to handle it and accompanying recipe has inspired me to try it! Is papaya crunchy like an apple or soft like a mango?

Dee said...

Payal, it's like an unripe mango. Not soft, but not as crunchy as a carrot or apple. The taste is mild, perfect for dressing up with spices and lime juice.

Jeff said...

I love that sour taste.

Do you have a good recipe you like to use for som tom? Curious about it.

Dee said...

Jeff, here is a link to a post I did about som tom. One thing I didn't mention is the use of fermented shrimp paste (kapi shrimp paste) in place of the dried shrimp. Using them are optional, but I like to add one or the other. I'll probably update that post soon. Let me know if you questions.

Anonymous said...

Darlene. I am so proud of you. The salad looked delicious. But do not forget som tom Thai and som tom i-saan (pla rah), sticky rice, khai tod and fried fish.

Dee said...

Anon, you must be someone I know?! I'll have to run down my list of sneaky relatives :-)

And don't worry, I never forget about the food I grew up on! I only wish I had more people who liked that kind of food so I could eat it more often. There would be a mutiny if I served Isaan food every single day :-)