Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooking: Green Papaya Salad with Mango

Green Papaya SaladGreen papaya salad is a mainstay of Thai cuisine; in fact, some say it is the single most popular dish among Thai women. It's refreshing and assertively spicy.

Traditionally made with long beans or green beans, this salad is made in large mortars in Thailand, where the papaya and beans are pounded to soften them until they are wilted. Few American cooks will have a large mortar on hand, so this recipe uses a rolling pin instead.

I didn't have any beans, so I left them out. I added some mango in their place and substituted almonds for the more traditional peanuts. To make a nice lunch, I cooked some sweet short-grain brown rice with half water and half coconut milk. The rice made a nice, rich, counterpart to the spicy salad.

Look for green papayas in Asian markets. We found ours in Seattle at Uwajimaya.

Green Papaya Salad with Mango
serves 4

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped green chili, such as serrano or jalapeƱo
1 green papaya, peeled
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into sticks
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons rapadura or turbinado sugar (use any unrefined or raw sugar)
10 grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped, toasted almonds
fresh cilantro

Combine the garlic and chilies in a mortar and pound to a paste; if you don't have a mortar and pestle, mince them very finely together. Set aside

Grate the peeled papaya with a box grater until you can see the immature, white seeds inside. Remove any seeds that get into your grated papaya. Spread the grated papaya on a large cutting board and use a heavy rolling pin to crush it, going over it repeatedly until the papaya shreds are softened and wilted. Have some fun with it.

Combine the wilted papaya and the garlic-chili paste in a bowl and mix well. You can use your hands to squeeze them together, working the seasonings in well. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar and mix well. Stir in the mango sticks and grape tomatoes.

Serve topped with toasted almonds and fresh cilantro leaves.

Excellent the next day, too.