(Hey! Update to this post – you can watch me make this salad on my YouTube page. Thanks and now back to the blog…)
California drought friendly and delicious, this papaya salad is a refreshing, bright, crunchy, herbaceous and spicy (not too spicy!) dish, perfect for warm weather months.
Super Sous and I traveled to Vietnam in February, our first stop being Hanoi, the capital city in the North. Upon arrival, we immediately arranged a street food tour of the Old Quarter of Hanoi (where we were staying). Our wonderful guide, Tam, took us on a whirlwind food extravaganza through the streets, alleys and hidden corridors to eat some of the best food Hanoi has to offer. From classics like Bun Cha to Egg Coffee to Beef Pho we ate A LOT, probably hitting up 7 different street food vendors/restaurants within the 3 hours of wandering.
Our third stop for the night was at a spot that served the best Papaya Salad we have ever had. At first, Super Sous and I were a little nervous about this dish as papaya salads we have eaten in Thai restaurants have been extremely spicy, but this salad was the perfect blend and balance of sweet, sour and spice. It was then that Super Sous and I fell in love with the Vietnamese papaya salad and despite our best efforts to not overeat and pace ourselves that evening, we couldn’t resist finishing off the whole salad.
Me, Tam – our street food tour guide – and Super Sous
Upon returning to California, we created our own version which comes pretty close to our experience. A note about the green papaya – you can find these in an Asian grocery store. (Sometimes they even have it pre-shredded in bags – score!) To shred yourself, cut in half, peel the section you want to use and shred using a citrus zester (photo below), a “noodler” (the instrument that makes zucchini noodles) a food processor (with the shredding attachment) or a box grater.
Now, a note about drought friendly recipes: Super Sous and I started the project of creating drought friendly recipes as a way for all of us around the country to help conserve California’s water. What I love about this recipe is the use of Virginia peanuts. They are so good! (It wouldn’t at all have anything to do with me being a Native Virginian…) Peanuts are a groundnut and therefore do not grow like almonds or walnuts in large orchards that require a lot of watering. Peanuts are a good source of protein and with their low water footprint, are a great alternative to almonds. According to the Water Footprint Organization, it takes 381 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of peanuts, whereas almonds require 6 times that amount. So, yay for peanuts!
Green Papaya Salad
Yields: 2 servings
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¾ teaspoon freshly grated ginger, grated on a microplane
½ teaspoon freshly grated garlic, grated on a microplane
2 teaspoons minced lemongrass
¼ Bird’s eye aka Thai chili, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups packed shredded green papaya
¼ cup grated carrot (1 medium carrot)
½ cup thinly sliced green beans, sliced on a bias (8 beans)
3 tablespoons whole toasted peanuts
½ cup quartered grape tomatoes (7 tomatoes)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
Combine dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves.
Add papaya, carrot and green beans to dressing and massage ingredients together with your hands for approximately 30 seconds, to meld all flavors and allow dressing to permeate papaya.
Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Divide onto plates and serve.