(Nộm đu đủ/ Gỏi đu đủ chay)
It’s the Vegetarian week here in Australia, and I thought it is the perfect time to share this delicious Vietnamese vegan green papaya salad. It is a perfectly crunchy salad with that classic clean and refreshing South East Asian flavors.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of papaya salad in Vietnamese cuisine. The first one is perhaps more popular in the western world – thinly shredded green papaya, tossed with a sweet-sour dressing made of fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and things like meat and seafood just before serving. This is typically the kind of street-food that I adore, especially when you top it with excellent quality beef jerky (thịt bò khô). Just writing about it makes me hungry!
The second kind, which I made today, is a dish that northern people often make for a gathering meal. It still has the characters of the classic flavours – sweet, sour, a bit spicy and full of fresh herbs. However, the flavors are more gentle, and on the sweeter side of that fabulous sweet-sour combo.
The preparation for this salad is more like making a quick pickle. The papaya and carrot are left to be soaked with sugar and vinegar, and then squeezed out gently. What’s left, the moist vegetable mixture is then tossed with lots of peanuts and herbs. It keeps for at least a day. I actually find that the salad tastes better after a while.
To make life easier, this little tool is used to shred the green papaya… I found it at a Vietnamese grocery in Richmond.
And I guess I just have to mention the beautiful movie called “Scent of the green papaya” (Mùi đu đủ xanh). Making this salad always reminds me of the character Mùi, and of my life in Vietnam, my grandparents’ garden.
(Nộm đu đủ/ Gỏi đu đủ chay)
Serve this with a side dish, or as a meal on its own with marinade firm tofu. If you want something more substantial, it’s also great with grilled meat. I’ve used pistachio here since my guest is allergic to peanuts.
Printable recipe here
1 green papaya (choose the firm one)
3 carrots, medium size
3 garlic cloves, skinned and crushed finely
2 bird-eye chillis (adjust to taste), crushed finely
Dressing for the papaya mixture: 1 cup white vinegar, ¾ cup sugar
Dressing for the carrot mixture: 4 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup skinned, roasted peanuts (the unsalted kind) or pistachio, crushed roughly
1.5 cups or more of fresh herbs: use the mixture of your favourite Asian herbs. I like coriander (cilantro), Thai basil and Vietnamese mint (aka laksa leaves). Washed and leaves picked.
Prepare the green papaya first. Remove the skin, then cut the fruit in half. Remove the white seeds, then shred the papaya as thin as you can. Soak the shredded papaya in acidulated water to remove some of the natural latex for 30 mins.
Now, onto the carrot – peel off the skin and shredded the carrot just like you do with the papaya. Add the sugar and vinegar mixture (4 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons white vinegar) and a pinch of salt to the carrot. Toss well, taste and set aside.
Drain the papaya well. Combine the dressing with the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt. Toss through the papaya mixture. Taste (it should be quite strong in flavours).
Leave the papaya and carrot mixtures to rest for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, prepare the herbs by cut the leaves roughly.
To prepare the salad mixture, gently squeeze the dressing out of the papaya and carrot mixtures. You want a moist mixture in the end, so don’t squeeze too hard. Mix the carrot and papaya together. Now, taste the mixture – it should have that sweet-sour balance (more on the sweet side). Adjust with the dressing.
When it’s ready to serve, toss through the herbs and peanuts. This kind of salad keeps for a while. Enjoy!