Green Papaya Salad
The heat seems to be waning a bit. Just a tad. It is with great appreciation we have friends like Phil and Liz. They have invited us over the last several days to keep cool by the waters of their community swimming pool. It is a tremendous relief when I slowly plunge myself into the deep coolness of the water.
Yesterday, as a token of our gratitude, I offered to make a simple lunch. Phil and Liz are fellow foodies. They have discriminating palates. Therefore, a sandwich was not going to cut it. Instead, I prepared an exotic blend of flavors. Green Papaya salad is refreshing, delicious and colorful. I enjoy putting it together. It allows me to bring out the mandoline and play with this gadget to my heart's content. Its dressing is simple and light, spicy and tangy, perky and bright.
We accompanied the salad with a fresh batch of crispy fried chicken, straight out of the fryer, courtesy of the market around the corner. That first bite spoke to me of Summer....
Thai-Laos Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
4-6 Thai bird chile peppers
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs. small dried shrimp (Soak in warm water for 5 minutes)
4 cups unripe green papaya, peeled and julienned
1 cup cut Asian long beans - 1 1/2-inch-long segments
2 julienned carrot
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
Juice of 4-6 limes, to taste
4-6 Tbs. fish sauce, to taste
2-3 Tbs. palm sugar, melted with 1 Tbs. water into a thick syrup - use as needed
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (optional, as garnish)
Prepare the ingredients as indicated. A mandoline with julienne blade or the shredder feature of a food processor works well.
Divide the ingredients into two batches and make each batch as follows. Using a large clay mortar with a wooden pestle, pound the garlic and bird chile peppers to a paste. Add the dried shrimp and long beans and pound to bruise. Follow with the green papaya and carrot. Stir well with a spoon and pound to bruise the vegetables so that they absorb the heat and flavor of the chile peppers and garlic.
Add the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Stir and pound a bit more to blend the vegetables with the flavorings and seasonings. Taste and adjust flavors to the desired hot-sour-sweet-and-salty combination. Then add the cherry tomato halves, fresh cilantro and fresh mint, stir and bruise lightly to blend in with the rest of the salad. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with peanuts.
I served this once at a summer picnic a couple of years ago. It was placed on the potluck buffet table with other cold salads. I heard someone ask, "What kind of noodles are these?" I chuckled as I watched the guest nibble and try to figure out what it was. She kept getting up for more "veggie noodles".
Life is a banquet, my friends.