Blame it on the rain. – We were all set up at the market, us vendors, ready for the customers. But it was unusually grey and wet and unfriendly on that specific morning, and the clients very obviously were not in a rush. So we had time to walk between each others booths, and chat. And of course we talked (mostly) food. My friend from San Salvador told me about a meal a Chinese neighbor had fixed for her – a Thai version of green Papaya salad with chicken. She gave one of the green – not quite ripe – Papayas her neighbor is growing in Matlacha to me. I was fascinated and kept on tinkering about what I would be transforming my green gift into.
Later that day, my son came home from his farm job with a box of longish, yellow, beautifully glowing peppers I had never seen before. A little research made clear that they were Aji Amarillo. From Peru. – One more tempting country and cuisine. One that ignited my plan: I was going to make salad of Floridian products that have their roots in South- and Central America, and an Asian style dressing. An ode to all of my international food and market friends.
Julienning the Papaya on a mandolin makes for a good crunch. I used Aji Amarillo, Serrano and Red Bell peppers, simply because I had those on hand. One can adjust the varieties to desire, creating a more or less spicy salad. I also added red and yellow Cherry Tomatoes, which turned out to be vibrant eye catchers. For more green speckles (besides the fine strips of Serrano), i put in fresh, chopped Cilantro and some green onions. Basil would work very well also, as would the addition of cooked green beans. By using sesame oil, lime juice, soy sauce and cooking rice wine, I kept the dressing simple yet tasty. This salad can be served as a light appetizer, a refreshing side dish or, complemented by fresh, grilled or dried shrimp, some cooked chicken, seared Tofu and a handful of toasted peanuts or cashews, as a healthy main dish.
Oh, and it works as a cooling meal on a sweltering hot day just as well as for a brightening and soothing bite on a rainy one. So no blaming here.
Green Papaya Salad with Peppers and Tomatoes
(makes 6 servings)
- 6 tbsp sesame oil
- 4 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tbsp cooking rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 6 pce garlic clove, pressed
- 1 large or 2 smaller green Papaya (about 4 lbs total)
- 1/2 cup red Cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup yellow Cherry tomatoes
- 2 pce Serrano pepper
- 1 pce red Bell pepper
- 2 pce Aji Amarillo pepper
- 1/2 bunch green onions
- 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
- kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a bowl, whisk sesame oil, lime juice, cooking rice wine, soy sauce and pressed garlic very well. Set aside.
Peel Papaya, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. On a mandolin, cut the fruit into match stick thin pieces into a large salad bowl.
Wash Cherry tomatoes, cut into halves and add to the fruit.
Wash peppers, cut into halves and cut out the seeds. Cut into slices about just as thick as the Papaya. Add to the fruit.
Wash the green onions, cut in fine slices. Add to fruit.
Wash cilantro, chop finely and add to fruit.
Before serving, pour dressing over fruit and vegetables and toss very well. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with leaves of cilantro if desired.