Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Green Papaya Salad

It's a little weird that I am about to talk about cooking classes two days in a row. I have only taken four cooking classes in my whole life, and it just happens that two of them were in the last week. So here goes.

I heard about the Portland Culinary Workshop last winter and knew immediately I wanted to take a class. I mean, they have a turducken class. Any place that teaches turducken is alright in my book. I have been trying to fit a class into my schedule for months, and a couple of weeks ago when I saw that there was a Thai street food class on a night that I could attend, I signed up.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you may have noticed that I do not specialize in Asian cuisines. The extent of my Asian cooking skills is as follows: peanut sauce, putting Sriracha on things, and curries made from store-bought curry paste. Oh, and my little sister taught me how to make fried rice recently. And I used to make Japanese food with some regularity, but haven't in years. It's strange that I can't/don't cook any Thai, Vietnamese, or Japanese food. Those cultures make some of my favorite foods.  Perhaps it has to do with the plethora of excellent Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese restaurants in Portland, but I have decided I am going to change things. The Thai street food class was my first step in doing so.

The menu of items we made, with their Thai names, is as follows:
- Green papaya salad (Som Tom)
- Chive cakes (Kanom Gui Chai)
- Crunchy prawn cakes (Gung Foi Tort)
- Grilled pork skewers (Muu Bing)
- Sticky rice with mango (Kao Niaw)

One of the best parts of the class? I can and will make everything on that list at home. And I have started with the green papaya salad.

Green papaya salad is on my top 5 list of favorite Thai dishes, but I have always been too intimidated by it to try to make it myself. Why spend hours julienning green papaya when I can have it ready for me to pick up in 10 minutes from Pad Thai Kitchen? Loyal readers, check out this gadget:

The only thing the in English on the package of the instrument, which I picked up at Fubonn, was its name: Miracle. And miracle is it. This puppy can be used to quickly and easily julienne green papaya, or anything else that needs julienning. Seriously, it is as easy to use as a vegetable peeler. It can also be used as a corer and a slicer. Brilliant.

Now that I have the Miracle, I don't know why I would ever get green papaya salad for takeout. Okay, yes I do. Two reasons: laziness and sticky rice. Unfortunately, sticky rice is not quick or easy to make. And as much as I love cooking, sometimes I do not want to bust out a mortar and pestle in order to eat dinner.

I have ranted enough, and I think it's time to tell you how to make it.

1. Shred/julienne one green papaya into a large bowl.  

If you can't find the tool I showed above, you can use the big grates on a cheese grater, julienne it by hand, or I hear some food processors and other gadgets can julienne. Or if your initials are SD, SB, or are a family member, I can run to Fubonn and get you the Miracle. If your initials are BK, go to Fubonn your own damn self and get one; you'll need to go to get a green papaya anyway. Actually, SB and family, you have more asian grocery stores near you than you could hope for, so you should be able to find one yourself.  SD, I'll get you one if you want one. Can you get a green papaya in the mid-west? Maybe you'll never need the Miracle gadget. My goodness, I need to get back to the recipe.

Green papaya salad usually has tomatoes, carrots, green mango, green beans and/or whatever other vegetable you want. I added halved heirloom cherry tomatoes and a formerly green mango that had ripened to a regular ripe mango and wouldn't really shred so I only added some of it to mine and ate the rest by itself.  

2. Grind about 3 large cloves garlic and 3 Thai chilies into a paste using a mortar and pestle. I only cut off the stem of the chilies and ground them seeds and all, and I actually used 5 chilies. I like my food spicy, obviously, so adjust to your taste.  

3. Grate about 2 Tbsp palm sugar, add to the paste in the mortar, and grind to combine. I added more like 3 or 4 Tbsp because I also like my green papaya salad sweet. You may be noticing that this recipe can be altered to suit what you like, so alter away.

3. Add the juice of one lime and about 2 Tbsp fish sauce to the mortar, and grind/stir to combine.

4. Pour the dressing over the shredded green papaya and other vegetables and toss. Add about 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts. Toss again to combine.

5. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for a while. I don't know how long is necessary. Mine was in there for about a half hour because I made the dressing and shredded the papaya and mango then ran to the store to get peanuts and tomatoes. You could probably eat it right away and it would still be delicious.

6.  Serve, ideally with sticky rice to dip into the dressing. As I mentioned earlier, sticky rice is not exactly easy to make.  It involves soaking rice for hours and steaming it in a special steamer. I'll do it someday, but tonight, I served with jasmine rice. Also, the salad is usually served on top of cabbage leaves. I forgot about this until I had already left the store, but I really wish I could have done it up right. Oh well.

Make this recipe, and you will be feeling like you no longer need to get green papaya salad from anywhere except your own kitchen.

I have sort of understatement babbled on in this post, but I have one more thing to talk about. The Missoni for Target collection that launched yesterday. I arrived at Target at 7.50 am yesterday morning in order to be there before the doors opened at 8. Shockingly, many other Portlanders had done the same thing. This was the first designer for Target collection that I have truly had to fight with other people for the things I wanted. Of course I went for the clothes first, and once I had snagged what I wanted there, wandered over to the housewares. I grabbed a couple platters thinking I would likely put them back, but after getting approval from Santina, I bought one. Okay, I bought two. But they're so pretty! And they will be the best thing to happen to this blog since the seahorse plates my older sister got me for Christmas, so I think they were a good buy.  And one is featured in this post, if you hadn't put two and two together yet.

Bon appetit


  1. The truth comes out - you bought TWO! I knew you wouldn't listen to me. I could hear the "I'm just saying yes to appease Santina" in your voice. That said, the platter looks fabulous.

    Ben and I had a papaya salad the other night, and it was amazing…though not as amazing as the Thai eggplant that I had after the salad. Next time you visit, we are definitely going back for the eggplant – you will LOVE it!

  2. I had never even CONSIDERED eating a green papaya salad before this post but now it seems like I NEED to eat one right away!

    I am picking out my favorite parts:

    "I mean, they have a turducken class. Any place that teaches turducken is alright in my book."

    "The extent of my Asian cooking skills is as follows: peanut sauce, putting Sriracha on things, and curries made from store-bought curry paste."

    "And as much as I love cooking, sometimes I do not want to bust out a mortar and pestle in order to eat dinner."

    "My goodness, I need to get back to the recipe."

    "I have sort of understatement babbled on in this post"

    And of course the whole part where you mentioned me! Whoo!! I have no idea if we can get green papayas (are there other kinds of papayas?) here, but I will look!

  3. Santina - I can't wait. Just Thai's Thai Eggplant is not as good as it used to be. I need some new stuff!

    S - I am not sure if green papayas are unripe papayas or if they are different in some other way, but if a green mango is any indication, it is just an unripe papaya. I am happy you enjoyed so many parts of my post. :)

  4. I did overlook the fish sauce part though. Fish sauce is my nemesis. With so much in the dressing, does it taste overly fish-saucey?

  5. No, it's not overly fish saucey, but I like fish sauce. You could use soy sauce instead.

  6. Glad you didn't go super traditional Thai and add dried shrimp or dried mini blue crabs... cuz it's really nasty when they do that! Also, most U.S. recipes use "Thai chili" - a longer version of the chili that's used in this recipe in Thailand, which are called Prik Ki Nu (mouse shit chili - b/c they are so small), also called Thai Birdseye Chilis or Thai Bird Peppers. They are much smaller than "Thai Chilis" and pack a meaner punch.