When we went to Thailand I fell in love with the green papaya salad. I could eat it every day, three times per day. When we were up north, in Chiang Mai, we went to a cooking school – we spent a whole day on the farm, learnt about vegetables they were growing there and then we cooked seven different dishes, so at the end I barely could get out of there I was so full. It was there though where I‘ve learnt how to properly make a green papaya salad. Our teacher told us that if we want to have it mild, better to stick to less than 3 chilies. If we want medium, 3 chilies are fine, and if you want more hotness – well, go for it. At the end I was very pleased with my 3-chillies version.
Then we went south to Hua hin, a resort, where the King used to rest with his whole family. Our teachers from kiting school sent us to the food market. Being the boring person I am, I had to get my daily dose of green papaya salad. When the seller asked me about the amount of chili I want, I replied per usual that I want 3. Couple of minutes later I got a big bowl on front of me, full of green papaya, tomatoes, green beans and one of the most delicious sauces that exists on this planet. I had a bite and then I saw red. It was so spicy I started sweating, and my eyes begin to water. I am also pretty sure my tongue doubled its size. I looked at Piers after a couple of bites and said, “this is so unbearably spicy”. He looked at me puzzled and asked:
– Why then are you still eating it?
– Because it’s so damn delicious!
I cried, I panted, I sweated, but I ate nearly everything off my plate. Today I am pretty sure that Piers created a monster that day, as my tolerance for spiciness grew a lot.
It is hard to get green papaya in our part of the world. Even if you manage to get one, it will probably cost you an arm and leg and on top of that it will not taste as delicious as it does in Asia. Some dishes belong to certain places on this planet. But there is a way to get a very similar experience, and I am sharing it with you today.
This salad has the spice, the crunchiness, and the freshness. It is vegan (no fish sauce, no dried shrimps), and it is full of flavor. I made it couple of times already and it doesn’t matter if I make a small or a big bowl – it disappears really fast. The portion here is enough for 2-3 people for lunch or can be enough for 4 if treated as a side dish.
To the recipe then!