So often grocery store papaya is under-ripe and not fit for your tropical fruit salad or smoothie. Occasionally, enough yellow is showing that I think there might be a chance that I can finish ripening it at home before it starts to rot. Now I’ve learned that green papayas are used as a savory vegetable in Vietnamese cooking. The unripe flesh is pale orange and slightly sweet and remains somewhat crunchy when combined with shrimp and pork in this salad. You could easily use only shrimp if you want to avoid the “other” white meat. The dressing has nice acidity from the lime and a bit of zip from the garlic and Serrano chilies. Adjust amounts of each to your tastes and enjoy.
Green Papaya Salad
Based on the recipe in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen
1 green papaya, about 2 lb.*
1 t sugar
2 ½ t salt (1 ½ t for the papaya and 1 t for the meat)
½ lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ lb. pork tenderloin
3 T cilantro, minced
In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
Preparing the Papaya
Peel the papaya, cut off the stem and cut lengthwise. Remove the seeds and white pulp surrounding them. Cut each half lengthwise again into 2-4 sections, depending on the size of the papaya. You want each section to be about 2 inches thick. Thinly slice (1/16 inch thick) the sections using a food processor or mandolin.
To remove the excess liquid from the papaya, place the slices in a bowl and rub the sugar and 1 ½ t of salt into the slices until the grains have dissolved and the papaya becomes limp and slippery. Next rinse and drain the papaya slices about 5 times to get rid of the excess saltiness. I used a salad spinner with good success. To finish drying the slices, spin them in the salad spinner and press them in non-terry towel. Place the dried sliced in a bowl large enough to hold the finished salad.
Preparing the Shrimp and Pork
Place the remaining 1 t teaspoon of salt in a small to medium sauce pan half full of water. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp. Cover and remove from the heat and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes to cook the shrimp. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon keeping the water to cook the pork. Let the shrimp cool and shred with your fingers into small pieces. When cooled to room temperature add the pieced to the papaya slices.
Bring the shrimp water back to a boil and add the pork tenderloin. When the water starts to boil again, cover, remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove the pork and let sit until it is cool enough to handle. Cut into matchstick sized pieces. When cooled to room temperature add the pieces to the papaya slices.
Before serving add the minced cilantro and dressing and toss to combine. Correct the seasoning and serve.
*If your papaya is over 2 lb. consider pickling the excess. Recipe to follow.