Green Papaya Salad

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The Darwin markets are fantastic! I’m not talking about the touristy, sunset ones down at the beach, but the real, down to earth, get the job done, get the stuff sold, ones that run every weekend; rain, hail or hurricane. Stalls are jammed together in tight little ally ways, while the ones outside are covered in a serious amount of tarps and ropes. With people everywhere, yelling in different languages, bargaining, laughing, kids running around, woks flaming and buckets of water getting thrown every which way, you could easily imagine you were in Asia somewhere. I love the energy of the markets and I love how much joy all the people get from selling their own produce and making other people happy with their delicious laksas, curries and my favourite; papaya salad.

I left with a full stomach and three bags bulging with beautiful fresh fruit, veggies and herbs. We’ve only been eating asian food since, I’ve got so many ideas I want to try.

Here, I’ve written a version of the beautiful green papaya salad, but I don’t think there is any way to replicate the way the old Aunties at the markets can make it. After asking me how hot I would like it, to which I would usually answer ‘hot’, but timidly answered ‘medium’, after seeing the glint in her eye, it was fantastic watching her hands, moving so quickly with the huge wooden pestle, pounding and stirring the punchy ingredients into the mortar, before adding the shredded green papaya and pounding and stirring some more, before quickly scooping it all into a container and handing it over to my gratuitous hands. And how glad I was that I didn’t answer with ‘hot’.

The salad is beautiful on it’s own but also great with any seafood or meat. We had it with some delicious Spiced Salt and Szechuan Pepper Squid, stay tuned for the recipe for that over the next couple of days.

Oh, and you’ll notice that my salad isn’t particularly ‘green’ but more orange as the papaya was starting to ripen. But it was still hard enough to julienne, just not as tangy as the true green ones.



Serves 4


4 small chillies, chopped (this is for a medium heat, add more or less as desired)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs dried shrimp
8 snake beans, sliced into 3cm lengths
2 tomatoes, sliced into eighths
2 tbs lime juice, about 1 lime
2 tbs palm or coconut sugar
3 tbs fish sauce
500g green papaya, shredded (a mandolin or a julienne peeler is ideal but a grater is also fine)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/3 cup each thai basil and mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup roasted peanuts


In a large mortar and pestle, pound the chilli, garlic and dried shrimp until a paste forms. Add the snake beans and bruise lightly. Add the tomatoes and pound slightly. Add the lime juice, sugar and fish sauce and grind until a smooth paste. Alternatively you can combine the chilli, garlic, shrimp, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce in a small food processor and process until nearly smooth. Place in a bowl with the snake beans and tomatoes and pound with the end of a rolling pin until softened.
In a large bowl combine the papaya and the bean sprouts with the dressing and stir well to combine, you can even use your hands to really get the dressing into the papaya. Stir through the herbs.
Transfer to a serving platter and scatter with the peanuts.


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