Alex and I had friends over for dinner and we decided to make an Asian-themed dinner. So I said we should make short ribs rendang and coconut rice (a la Fatty Crab) and then left Alex to come up with a side dish. And his suggestion was green papaya salad. He even found me the recipe for Spicy Green Papaya Salad that Zak Pelaccio (the chef at Fatty Crab, Cabrito and Fatty Cue) had published in Food & Wine. So on our grand shopping trip in Chinatown this morning we hit several grocery stores looking for green papayas. And we found nothing. Actually, we found some little papayas at the grocery store on East Broadway down under the bridge (the grocery store is literally under the bridge), but you had to buy an entire $16 box of papayas, rather than buying them individually. No thanks. Luckily when I hit Fairway later this afternoon to find short ribs they happened to have papaya. So I found what looked like the most unripe papaya with the greenest skin and bought it. I was so proud of myself too. And then I got home and went to cut it open and the papaya was bright orange inside, but still clearly unripe. So I guess I got 50% right? Maybe the $16 box of papayas down in Chinatown was green? Who knows. And at that point I figured what the heck. We could make a rainbow papaya salad rather than a green papaya salad.
I love the spicy lime dressing for this salad. Combined with the sweetness of the mango and papaya (even though both were unripe, or just verging on ripe), and the cilantro and mint it was such a fresh and delicious combination. One of my favorite things about Thai and Vietnamese food is the combination of spicy, sweet, and sour flavors all in the same dish and this salad was the perfect example of that flavor combo.
Recipe after the jump!
Spicy Rainbow Papaya Salad
Adapted from Food & Wine
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 Thai chilis, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large unripe Mexican papaya (about 2 lbs), peeled, seeded, and cut into 4-inch long 1/4-inch matchsticks
1 large firm, barely ripe mango, peeled, sliced off the pit, and cut into 4-inch long 1/4-inch matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped (optional)
Combine lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, chilis, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Process until ingredients are pureed. Season with salt to taste. Toss again. Refrigerate, covered, at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours.
Serve chilled. Garnish with peanuts, if desired.