Green papaya salad is refreshing and loaded with flavor. I love it, but because most Thai restaurants use fish sauce in the dressing, I rarely order it out. I’ll never forget one time when we were eating in a Thai restaurant, a lady at a table near us had ordered the papaya salad. She nearly shrieked after her first bite, and then said loudly, “What kind of fruit salad is this supposed to be?” I guess she was expecting something sweet, like that canned fruit cocktail. She’ll know better next time!
Here’s my recipe for papaya salad from Vegan Fire and Spice. I sometimes serve it as a prelude to a Thai meal like Drunken Noodles, but it can also be enjoyed as a light main dish when topped with fried or baked marinated tofu.
I made it for lunch the other day, but I had to leave out the cilantro — just when I was getting ready to go pick some from the garden, I noticed that the groundhog mom and her two babies were nibbling on grass nearby and I didn’t want to disturb them.
Green Papaya Salad
This recipe is from Vegan Fire and Spice by Robin Robertson © 2008, Vegan Heritage Press. If you can’t find vegan fish sauce, I’ve included a recipe for it.
1 large unripe (green) papaya, peeled and shredded
1 carrot, shredded
2 scallions, minced
1 small hot chile, seeded and minced or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Vegan Fish Sauce (recipe follows)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or a natural sweetener
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 small ripe tomato, cut into wedges
Crushed peanuts, for garnish (optional)
Combine the papaya and carrot in a bowl. Add the scallions and chile. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, then pour over the salad and toss until well mixed. Arrange on salad plates and garnish with the cilantro, tomato wedges, and peanuts, if using.
Vegan “Fish” Sauce
This sauce is used in much the same way as soy sauce. I like the extra dimension this sauce gives to a recipe, although, in a pinch, you could get by with substituting a good-quality soy sauce or tamari.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 to 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all the ingredients in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended. Store the jar in the refrigerator.
Makes about 3/4 cup