green papaya salad

One of my favorite salads is green papaya salad and lucky for me, my neighbor Mark has many papaya trees in his yard with lots of fruit. It’s awesome to be able to just run over there and pick an unripe green papaya right off the tree.

Our family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada in the late ’70s as refugees from Laos, arriving in the month of October too. Can you imagine a young family of 4 plus 3 of my mom’s nephews suddenly transported from tropical weather to what would be the start of a brutally cold and snowy winter, not knowing anyone nor speaking much English and definitely having never seen or felt cold like that before, not easy! But as with most refugees and immigrants we adapted and for over 30 years it became the norm; snow, windchill, schmuck, long cold prairie winters was just life for 6  months of the year. And as for food, well let’s just say in the ’70s there weren’t many tropical fruit or veggies readily available in Canadian supermarkets. Only until entrepeneurial Chinese immigrants and Vietnamese refugees  started opening up grocery stores did we get reunited with ingredients from that part of the world again.

Until then my mom had great success substituting thin julienned carrots for shredded green papaya, it works, both are firm and crunchy in texture. We also made the salad with cucumbers, Chinese long green beans, even boiled rice noodles, it all tasted great with the pounded chilis, fresh lime juice, sweet cherry tomatoes and all the seasonings. Savory, a touch of sweet, lots of lime and hot chilis to your liking, it’s so easy. My childhood friends always tried to one up each other on the chili factor, I’d bow out at 7 chilis, my tastebuds are just shot after that, my brother, Opa hands down would always win the chili contest.

* There are so many variations to green papaya salad. Some people like to pound dry small shrimp into it, more adventurous folks like to pound some black crabs into it, some top it off with ground roasted peanuts. I prefer mine without the garlic clove, raw garlic I find overpowers the salad, but if you like garlic, go ahead, pound and mix a clove in at the beginning with the chilis and sugar. If you were to add the dry small shrimp, pound them in with the fresh chilis and sugar at the beginning too, then add all the remaining ingredients. At the end throw in some ground roasted peanuts, mix and plate the salad.

Green Papaya Salad

3-4 fresh or dried thai chilis, add more or less to your personal tastes

1 tsp palm sugar (other kinds of sugar will work too)

1 green papaya, peeled, thin julienned sticks (should yield at least 3 large handfuls)

8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

juice of almost a whole fresh lime (again depending on your personal taste and how much juice the lime yields)

1-2 tsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp ba daek – an anchovy based sauce. (Optional, again to your personal tastes. If you don’t add this, be sure to add some more fish sauce to the salad as the salad will need more saltiness, a savory kick, which more fish sauce and a pinch of salt will do).


1. Peel the green papaya, rinse and pat the peeled papaya with a paper towel, then start to shred julienne the papaya, once done, set aside. Do not add the seeds in the center of the papaya, discard that part.

2. Put the chilis and sugar into a large mortar and pestle, pound til mashed.

3. Add the shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and ba daek. Continue to pound and mix the ingredients together. Once throroughly mixed, plate the salad. Serve with some sticky rice and  roasted chicken.


5 Responses to “green papaya salad”

  1. mmm…my mouth is watering right now Dia!!!

  2. I like to make it with shredded cabbage and apple for a South-East Asian cole slaw.


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