Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Green papaya salad

The hardest part of making green papaya salad is finding a green papaya. Once you have that figured out, it comes together pretty easily. This is the perfect antidote to the holidays--all I want now in the wake of rich foods are tangy, spicy things to eat. I first saw Nee make this when I went to Winston-Salem with Phil's family at Thanksgiving--she's from Thailand and made this later in the evening after the traditional turkey dinner was over. She has some real Thai chilies that she uses and the version she makes is sublime. I went home with papaya salad on my mind and made an approximation of it to serve with grilled flank steak. The cool sour-spiciness of the salad is incredible with beef, but it is usually eaten by itself as a snack, so don't let that get in the way. Nee told me you can make this with cucumber instead of green papaya if you want, so I tried a version with shredded carrots and cucumbers that came out pretty awesome as well.First of all--green papaya! They look like lumpy footballs. You can find them in the asian grocery stores pretty easily. While you're there, get some thai chiles. Tiny, hot asian peppers of any kind will probably work--get about 3-4 depending on how much you like the spice.Peel up a clove of garlic...And mash it with the hot peppers. If you have a really big mortar and pestle, this is the time to use it. I only have a wee baby size one, so I had to use a bowl.Now peel your green papaya and cut it in half.Looks kind of neat inside! The seeds are like little pearls. Scoop them out.Now it's time to shred the papaya into the bowl with the chilies and garlic. When I watched Nee do this it was really cool--she kind of held it up with one hand and used a mini machete while striking at an angle to create shreds. My chef's knife isn't quite the right shape but I tried it anyway. Or you can try slicing with a mandoline to create the shreds. Once you have a bowlful of green papaya shreds, add in the juice from 1 lime. Nee just tosses in the lime halves and mashes it up, but I juiced it in then mixed because I don't have that huge mortar and pestle.Fish sauce adds that essential tang! I used about two tablespoons--it is definitely an ingredient that is subject to taste.Get it all mixed up well together.Meanwhile, if you want to serve it as a main dish, grill a flank steak to utter perfection (seriously, doesn't this look awesome?). Slice it up and serve on a bed of the shredded papaya salad.Hot, spicy, sour, tangy...

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