Classic. Originally Published: Report, August 2010.
I had an exquisite time a few months back in southeast Asia, comparing the cuisines of the well-known countries there. But one of the least known is Lao (we usually call it Laos), which features a kind of mountain-top rusticity in its . I was blown away by one thing in particular: their take on Green Papaya Salad, a southeast Asian staple. In Lao…the difference is that they pound whole pieces of lime in the mortar and pestle, adding a slightly bitter but wildly lime-y dimension to the dish. If you search, all of the following ingredients can be found in U.S. markets:
Laotian Green Papaya Salad with Lime
serves 4 as dinner side dish (fish sauce intensity up to you!)
Inspired by a recipe in Natacha du Pont de Bie’s book, ANT EGG SOUP: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos
1 medium green papaya, about 16 to 24 oz.
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 small lime, cut into eighths
pinch of salt
3-4 Thai bird chiles (or 1 tablespoon slivers of any hot chile)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
6 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
1. Peel the green papaya with a vegetable peeler. Split in half (reserving the white papaya seeds inside for a future use if you like the taste of nasturtium). Reserve one half of the papaya for future use.
2. Cut the remaining half-papaya into very long and very thin julienne. You can do this with a mandoline, or–harder!–completely by hand. Cover papaya julienne with a wet paper towel and reserve.
3. In a large mortar, place the garlic cloves, lime pieces, and pinch of salt. Pound with a pestle until a near-paste is achieved. Add the chiles, and pound lightly for a moment; they should still be in pieces.
4. Add the reserved papaya julienne. Pound very lightly for 30 seconds or so, turning with a spoon so the ingredients are all blended. You should end up with the julienne strips still intact.
5. Add the sugar and fish sauce, stirring well with a spoon. (NOTE: May be reserved in the fridge at this point, right in the mortar, covered, for a few hours.)
6. When ready to serve, push papaya mixture to side of mortar, and drop in cherry tomato quarters. Bruise tomatoes with the pestle, no more…then mix completely with papaya. Serve.
Photos Via: BigStockPhoto