Papaya salad is one of the most popular simple dishes in Laos and the northeast of Thailand. You can see it being served up by street vendors to hordes of hungry customers, after a long, hot day. It’s typically made with green papaya – not yet fully ripened, and with tougher flesh. As it can be difficult to find green papayas outside tropical countries, I came up with a recipe for a ripe papaya salad. This recipe is also more accessible to those with palates that are unaccustomed to sour or extremely hot and spicy green papaya salads. It will serve three of four people.
What You’ll Need:
A little oil, a whole lime, two teaspoons of fish oil, one tablespoon of white sugar, a small onion, a clove of garlic, six cherry tomatoes, 1/2oz coriander leaves, 1/4oz salted peanuts, five hot red chilies (use your own discretion when determining how hot you want it to be – Thais and Laotians will typically tell you it needs to be very hot, but this can make it almost inedible for outsiders), 8oz king prawns (the original salad is made with tiny dried shrimp, so the king prawns give it a meatier, yet still light, element). Then don’t forget the most important thing – a medium to large yellow papaya.
How to Prepare the Ingredients:
Firstly, if your prawns are fresh from the sea, wash and peel them and remove their intestinal tracts. Then fry the prawns in smoking oil on both sides for a couple of minutes. Once they are done, remove from the pan and set them aside to cool.
Crush the garlic and chop the onion and set to one side. Chop the chillies and add them, including the seeds, to the onion and garlic. Finely chop the coriander leaves and set them to one side with the quartered cherry tomatoes. Crush the peanuts and set to one side.
Cut the lime in half and squeeze out the juice of both sides into a small bowl. Add the fish oil and sugar.
Take the papaya and use a large sharp knife to remove the skin. The yellow papaya is much softer than its younger sibling, and so offers little resistance when being chopped. You do this by making vertical cuts into the fruit at intervals of 1/8in. Then, with the knife perpendicular to the cuts, shave off a layer, also around 1/8in deep. Keep doing this until all of the flesh comes away in shavings. You’ll have to be careful to keep the black seeds apart from the shavings.
How to Mix the Salad:
You’re almost there now. Add the papaya shavings to a bowl and mix in the other ingredients – onion, garlic and chillies, followed by the prawns, then the juice mixture. Mix them together and then add the coriander leaves and crushed peanuts. Turn the salad a few times to spread the leaves and peanuts. You can now scoop the salad into bowls for a refreshing and light summer meal.