This is a Thai-Style salad that I have adapted from the amazing Thai Vegetarian Cooking (1991) by Vatharin Shumichitr. I can’t claim that it is truly Thai; I did not follow the recipe exactly, both because of the ingredients that I had on hand, and our preferences. It was still delicious!
True story: During my time on the Visa line at the Embassy of London in Grosvenor Square – when dinosaurs walked the earth – I encountered my share of celebrities, including Mr. Vatharin Chimichitr. He needed an American Visa for his upcoming (non-vegetarian) US cookbook tour. Of course I approved his visa, and also informed him – with apparent seriousness – that the next time he wanted an American Visa he should publish a Vegetarian Cookbook. That was in 1989. Much to my surprise, within two years he published this amazing vegetarian cookbook. – it must already have been in the works. And it is just wonderful.
While we lived in Washington DC Green Papaya Salad was readily available in our local Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. Here in Israel it has been harder to find. So this week when our local organic farm Bein Hatlamim – translating literally to “Between the Furrows” – offered papayas and promised to pick out one of the most green for me, I jumped at the chance to try to make Papaya Salad at home. ( I have written before about this amazing farm here. )
1 Shallot, sliced
1 block of Tofu (app. 233 grams which is approximately 1/2 pound)
3 – 4 Tbs Oil for sautéing the Tofu
1/2 Under-ripe Papaya (app. 435 grams or is nearly a pound)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Chopped fresh chilis or Chili Sauce (to taste)
3Tbs fresh lemon juice
3Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs chopped toasted peanuts
1 Red Pepper (Sweet) seeded, sliced
Several large green outer lettuce leaves (Romaine works really well), trimmed and washed
- Cut the tofu into rectangular slices suitable for topping your Papaya Salad (we like 1″ x 2″ slices.)
- Sautee the tofu and chopped shallot over medium heat until the tofu slices are golden brown on each side.
- While the tofu is browning, peel and grate the Papaya, and then place the grated papaya in a measuring cup or bowl. (Mine was green outside; after I peeled it I saw it was orange inside. The main thing is that it should be under-ripe.)
- Stir together the marinade: garlic, chilis to taste, lemon juice, Tamari (or Soy Sauce or Braggs Aminos – whatever you prefer), and sugar.
- Add the marinade to the grated papaya.
- Assemble your Papaya Salad: If you have a decorative serving dish you have been saving for something special, this is the time to use it! Line the serving dish with the outer lettuce leaves, layering the grated papaya in its marinade on top of the lettuce. Place the sautéed tofu and shallots on top of the papaya. Garnish with the (sweet) red pepper slices and sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top.