Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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.
- 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
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