In the Caribbean we’re blessed with tons of fresh juicy fruit and though it’s not something commonly made, papaya salad is a great way to enjoy this wonderful topical delight. I recall watching the trees laden with papaya in our back yard as a youth and it was always a competition of who could spot the ripe one between my brother and I and birds. Cool slices of ripe papaya on a hot day is almost as refreshing as watermelon… and we were not about to have the birds win.
If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine as I am, I’m sure you’ve had one of their delicious shredded papaya salads made from green papaya. So it was only natural for me to put together this salad to represent the vitality of the Caribbean.
1 ripe papaya (2-3lbs)
2 tablespoon cilantro (or shado beni)
juice of a lime
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 bird pepper (chili pepper)
red onion (optional)
Notes: Use any sort of spicy pepper you have or like and remember that the majority of heat when it comes to peppers are in the seeds and the membrane surrounding the seeds (avoid using if you’re concerned about the heat). A half-ripe papaya will work best, especially for holding it’s shape and working with in general.
The first step is to cut, seed and peel the papaya (in the video below I’ll show you how simple this is). Basically all you have to do is trim off the stem area, then cut in half length-wise. Then use a spoon to scrape off all the seeds and discard. Now cut into segments and peel. I used a sharp pairing knife, but a potato peeler will work just as well. Give it a rinse with cool water and cut into 1 inch pieces (cube).
Put the pieces of papaya in a bowl and chop the pepper and cilantro (I didn’t have any red onion, but it’s a good addition to this papaya salad).
It’s now time to assemble everything. In the bowl with the papaya, add the chopped pepper and cilantro, squeeze in the fresh lime juice as well as the other ingredients… don’t forget to grate the ginger into the mix as well. Now (be gentle if your papaya is fully ripe) toss and serve. Works great if you can leave it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to marinate a bit and chill.
I’m sure if you’d like to get a bit more creative you can always add a pinch of brown sugar and a few drops of honey to the mix. I do hope you give this papaya salad a try as it’s very simple to make and it’s a great way to use a fruit we hardly consider using… don’t let the birds get it! BTW if you live in North America, you can easily source papayas at any Asian, Latin or West Indian market/store. Most of the bigger chain groceries now stock them as well.