One of the increasingly popular menu items at Thai restaurants across the country is green papaya salad. I first heard about this salad from a Burmese refugee living in Texas, but I was unable to find a green papaya. Then Molly Wizenberg wrote about it in the May 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. I tried harder to find the green papaya, but continued to strike out. Finally, green papayas came into season and they were everywhere. Who knew they were a seasonal item?
The salad is a perfect example of Thai food: a beautiful balance of salty, sweet, spicy and sour flavors. But a firm, hard, green papaya must be used.
If the papaya is at all soft, you will have a rubbery, chewy and tough salad.
I gave it to my two testers: my hubby (a Northern transplant to the South), and Brad (a local New Bernian). They both gave it two thumbs up, way up. Brad says he eats everything, and Guy says he likes the sweet/hot combo of flavors.
Green Papaya Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp. fish sauce
dash lite soy sauce (or 1-1/2 tsp. finely chopped dried shrimp)
1 garlic clove, minced (1 tsp.)
10 green beans, cooked till crisp-tender, julienned
2 cups finely shredded green papaya
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, sliced lengthwise in slivers
2 tsp. minced Thai pepper or jalapeno
3 Tbsp. chopped honey-roasted peanuts
Prepare the dressing: Whisk the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce (or dried shrimp) and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.
If you have a julienne peeler, use it to shred the papaya. Otherwise, use the Thai method of shredding: peel the papaya, then carefully using a very sharp heavy knife, hit the papaya with lengthwise strokes, making gashes down the flesh.
Then take a vegetable peeler and peel the strips.
This should give you long, thin strips of papaya.
Place 2 cups of shreds into a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, chile pepper and green beans. Toss. Refrigerate till ready to serve. Before serving, pour dressing over salad; toss. Sprinkle peanuts over top.