Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Refreshing Green Papaya Salad

One of my favorite things that I always order at Vietnamese restaurants is the green papaya salad. This crunchy, sweet-tart salad made with unripen papaya is always refreshing and tasty.

But I’ve never made it at home because 1) I don’t usually see green papayas at the market and 2) I don’t know how to shred it to those fine thin strings. I love green papaya so much that I watched a movie called “Scent of the Green Papaya” (based on the book that I always read) and saw how the main star, this young girl, used a big machete-like knife to chop a green papaya into shreds. Her masterful wielding of the knife in one hand as she held the bare papaya on the other was like watching a choreographed swordplay, but in this case the papaya couldn’t fight back.

I thought it must take years of practice to shred a green papaya like that by hand. And I like my fingers, so there was no way I was going to attempt that at home.

Then at a recent cooking class, I saw the instructor use this fancy julienne knife she got at Sur La Table. It looked like a large razor, but instead of a single blade, the head was a blade with tiny teeth that scratch against the vegetable to create thin julienne strips. Voila! I’ve found my machete-knife to cut green papayas, except in a safer, smaller package!

I bought one of these julienne knives and found a green papaya at Ranch 99 (I’ve noticed green papayas only at Asian or Mexican grocery stores) and decided to make my first green papaya at home. To fancy it up, I decided to poach a few shrimps to top it. The result is the following dish that was as refreshing as any green papaya salads I’ve had at any restaurant. Enjoy!

Other of my Vietnamese-influenced recipes:
Grilled Lamb with Baby Artichokes
Caramel Fish in Claypot
Cha Gio (spring rolls)


Mark Scarbrough said...

I love that little julienne gadget. We use ours all the time. But somehow, I made green papaya salad the other day and used my old-fashioned, Japanese spiral-curly-Q-slicer, that Benriner device. This is such a better idea!

Judy said...

I need to get a julienne gadget. tonight I'm making green papaya salad and still am not sure how I'm going to get the thing cut.