I have always thought a green papaya was an unripe papaya and it turns out I am correct. I have been looking for an unripe papaya for a very long time. Upon a visit to an Asian grocery store I found hard small papayas and I was finally in luck.
Two kinds of papaya, sometimes called pawpaw, are commonly grown. One has sweet red or orange flesh and the other is yellow. Either picked unripened is called green papaya. Green papaya is rich in papain, an enzyme that tenderizes meat. It is also an aid to digestion. It has been used by the indigenous peoples for centuries and is an ingredient in powdered meat tenderizers.
In addition to salads, green papaya is cooked in curries and stews.
Papaya does not properly ripen after picking which explains why I have not found it outside an Asian grocer. The typical use is as a fresh fruit. Timing is everything and if picked green the papaya will soften but not ripen. My long wait has been rewarded. I have a salad for lunch today. Personally, I would not call this a traditional recipe because of the inclusion of tomatoes. However, they do add a punch of colour.
Thai Green Papaya Salad
3 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons dried shrimp, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Chinese long beans
green papaya, peeled, halved, seeded
10 large cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, very thinly sliced
1 fresh red Thai chile with seeds, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped salted peanuts
Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Set dressing aside.
Cook beans in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Using julienne peeler, peel enough papaya to measure 6 cups. Place in large bowl. Add tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, chile, and green beans. Pour dressing over; toss. Sprinkle peanuts over and serve.