I really think I ordered this salad no fewer than nine times in seven days when we were traveling through Vietnam. It was certainly a staple in my diet, and if you can imagine all of the wonderful foods that could be inspired by a fusion of French and Asian cuisine, and I was choosing a salad, then you know that salad had to be knock-your-socks-off good. Or your flip flops. Because we were at the beach.
If you wait until the last minute to prepare all of the things this salad requires, it’s going to strike you as a little fussy. Honestly? Just employ a good set of kitchen hands like the ones you see here in this picture. Walker almost never cooks, and even he likes this salad so much, he was willing to contribute a little elbow grease into the meal. (Only teasing, Walker helps… sort of.)
These two implements we’re using are ones that I’d never seen outside of Asia. I don’t even know what they’re called. The little wooden one is a very traditional one that we got in Vietnam. The other, a modern version with a grip for comfort. Having two gave Walker and me the luxury to shred our papaya and carrot in half the time, but this task is easily surmountable by one odd kitchen tool or even by a food processor if you have one.
We don’t. And I’m go back and forth between being frustrated and proud of that fact. Yesterday, when I could accomplish something without it, I was very proud. I’ll let you know how I feel when I next try to make pesto without one.
With or without modern (read: giant wastes of counter space, that are sometimes just worth it) appliances, this salad is a real treat, and one that is perfect for those days when it is too hot to think about actually cooking anything. Serve with or without the thit kho bo (Vietnamese beef jerky), depending on your tastes.
Green Papaya Salad
Goi Du Du Bo Kho
Adapted from the Morning Glory Restaurant in Hoian, Vietnam
This unusual salad made with green papaya is a refreshing and crunchy addition to a meal. To have that perfect crunch, prepare it last minute, as it becomes very soggy if made in advance. But if time is short on the day you need it for the salad, the papaya can be prepared a day in advance. Prepare the papaya, drain well, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for one day.
Prepare garnishes in advance, the shallot oil and shallots, the roasted peanuts and sesame. To save time if you plan on making more of this salad in the future, make larger quantities of the garnishes in advance. The sesame seeds, peanuts, fried shallots, and shallot oil will all keep well for two weeks in airtight containers.
Note: these ingredients are per person you’d like to serve
100 g shredded papaya, shredded into sort strands
A large pinch of finely shredded carrot, for color
1/2 cup Vietnamese mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Anise basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Corriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Green shiso, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 teaspoon sugar
2/3 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon pounded garlic, pounded into a coarse puree
1 teaspoon deseeded and pounded red chili
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons fried shallots
Thit kho bo – Vietnamese beef jerky (optional)
1.5 tablespoons of peanut oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 extra red chili for garnish
1. Make the dressing: mix lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Combine pounded garlic and chili, pounding together to mix the flavors. Incorporate into dressing.
2. Make a chili flower: with a very sharp, pointy knife cut a zig zag pattern from near the top of chili to near the bottom, all the way around. Place flower in a very cold bowl of ice water. The colder the ice water, the faster the flower petals will curl. (My flower is still in a bowl of water that is actually still sitting in the freezer a day later. Guess what? It never curled. Well one “petal” curled. But I’m pretty sure that’s because I didn’t do it right. This step is just for those of you who are more talented with a knife than I am.)
3. Shred the papaya finely, rinse in fresh cool water, then soak in cool water for 15-20 minutes. Drain very well.
4. To a large sized salad bowl, add prepared papaya, carrot, and dressing, then the fresh herbs, 1 tsp toasted sesame and a tablespoon peanut oil. Mix gently (with chopsticks if you’re feeling authentic).
5. Move the salad to individual plates. Garnish with a pinch of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, the crispy shallots, and a few pieces of thit kho bo, and if any dressing is left at the bottom, pour it on top, and serve immediately.