Wednesday, November 16, 2011

vegan green papaya salad recipe

If I could eat just one salad for the rest of my life, it would be green papaya salad hands down. It's a crush that started many years ago when I first moved to Australia as a keen and somewhat naive teenager. Up until then I had never even heard of eating papaya (paw paw) green. Sure I was accustomed to many Thai flavours having worked with a bunch of super talented and worldly chefs in New Zealand. But the whole finely shredded green papaya, chilli, peanut, fish sauce and lime juice thing, well that was news to my 18 year-olds ears. 

I don't remember exactly where it was that I first tasted this amazing salad, but what I do vividly remember is later on when I travelled to Thailand with my sister and brother-in-law, seeing green papaya salad being made by hand on the side of the road, down a back alley in Bangkok. Now, by hand I mean the amazing way the papaya is traditionally prepared using a knife and a short sharp cutting/tapping action to score the whole peeled fruit before being shaved off, leaving long, thin matchsticks. I'm yet to master that particular technique (okay so I've never even tried, shhhhh) but a madoline or julienne peeler will give the same results, and possibly save you a hand or two. 

Green papaya salad is not confined to Thailand alone and variations can be found throughout South East Asia, with one of my all time favourites being made in a little restaurant in Hoi An, on the coast of Vietnam. Since being here in Perth my latest obsession has been with the green papaya salad (or green mango when in season) made at the Fremantle markets by the lovely Thai vegan ladies. Which has inspired me to make my own salad, minus the usual fish sauce. 

It's sometimes hard to get authentic South East Asian flavours without fish sauce, and I wouldn't suggest that soy sauce is a straight swap for it in every dish. But in a salad like this with it's punchy chilli, garlic and peanut base it can easily be used, adding the salty component to the holy trinity of South East Asian flavours; the sweet, sour and salty. I prefer using a light soy sauce  and if you then find the salty balance is still out, use a little sea salt rather than adding more soy, to keep it from over powering the whole dish.

If you could only eat one salad for the rest of you life, what would it be?

vegan green papaya salad
I've made this recipe to serve one, as my mortar and pestle is only big enough to hold 1 serving. You can double or triple the recipe if you have a really large mortar & pestle, or simply make each serving as required. The beauty of doing each serve means that you can tailor to individual tastes, adjusting chilli and adding less or more peanuts etc. Unrefined raw sugar can be used in place of palm sugar if desired and of course if you are not gluten-free, just use regular soy-sauce, opting for a light one like kikkoman though. 
per serve...

  • 1/2-1 birds eye chilli
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1-2 teaspoons finely grated pure palm sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup finely shredded green papaya (or green mango)
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 green beans, trimmed and chopped into 2-3cm lengths
  • 1-2 teaspoons gluten-free soy sauce, to taste
  • the juice of 1-2 limes (or lemons), to taste
  • sea salt, to taste

In a mortar & pestle grind together the chilli, garlic, peanuts and sugar. Add green papaya, cherry tomatoes and green beans and bruise lightly with the pestle while using a spoon to scrape the sides of the mortar and mix everything. Add gluten-free soy sauce and lime/lemon juice to taste. You are looking for a beautiful combination of salty, sweet and sour, so add more palm sugar, lime/lemon juice, or sea salt, as needed. Scoop out into a bowl and serve immediately.

Recipe shared at:
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-free


  1. Oh, green papaya salad - when the balance of flavours is right, it's just so good.

  2. i don't crave papaya salad, tho when i do consume it, i am reminded of how much i love it.

    my fave salad is just a simple avocado+tomato+cucumber combo, with a light dressing of olive oil+balsamic vinegar+pinch of salt. i could eat that everday.

  3. I love a good green Papaya salad, yet I have never made it myself! This looks so good!

  4. Angry Asian~ That salad combo is what I do actually eat most days (while I dream of green papaya salad :-)

  5. Yum, you are lucky having pawpaw in Aussie, wee bit too expensive here but i will be back in Sydney again end of teh month and pig out on them as well as Mangos. The cook book Mia kai also has some lovely green pawpaw recipes. I also dream of a huge mortar & day

  6. This looks so refreshing and healthy, great combination of flavors!

  7. yummm!! Having just been to a Thai cooking class yesterday evening I have a new appreciation for Thai food and loved the green papaya and mango in the salads! This sounds amazing, all those fresh ingredients! :)

  8. Whenever I order this, they can never understand why I don't want fish sauce :P This looks really yummy!

  9. One of my favorites too! Good tip for swapping out the fish sauce. This is nice made with green mango too if you can't get hold of pawpaw. Yumm...

  10. I've never had green papaya salad, but now I'm going to have to try it. I love that photo of the cut green papaya. So beautiful.

    As for eating just one salad for the rest of my life, I am not sure I could pick one...:D

  11. Hands down green papaya's definitely my favorite. We hosted a Thai exchange student 7 years ago and she is an amazing cook. She taught me how to make papaya salad and I've loved it ever since. Now I'm craving it looking at your lovely photos!

  12. I do remember having a green papaya salad in Thailand, I even found a green papaya the other week with all good intentions of making a green papaya salad...didn't quite get around to it, so you have inspired me to most definitely give it a go....sounds wonderful.

  13. I substituted a paste of tamarind and jaggery for sugar , also some chopped coriander and green chillies. Turned out delicious.


Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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