Enjoy this spicy Green Papaya Salad from our neighbors in the Philippines that is becoming popular throughout the islands. This recipe was shared by Kezia Mendoza. Many thanks. It’s been fun learning how to make this dish – I love it so much, I keep a bottle in my fridge at all times.

The cultures of Polynesia have such a delightful selection of dishes based on the great variety of selections of fruits, vegetables, root plants, fish, and more. Each one is influenced by not only the culture of the island, but the cultures of visitors or migrating populations. So some dishes are just new ways to utilize readily available items. This week’s recipe comes from the Philippines, and is a very popular way to use the ever abundant papaya. What makes this unusual is that we are taking green, unripened papaya, shredding it, adding other ingredients, pickling it and serving it as a great side salad with this amazing bite of vinegar, garlic and spice. As with most pickling recipe, this will take 1 – 2 weeks to be ready – but oh is it worth it!

photo of prepared vegetables for the green papaya salad

In this picture I’ve kept the peeled ginger in large pieces, sliced thin, with the plan to remove it before serving for a little lighter taste. I also added a stick of cinnamon bark for a little extra flavor.

GREEN PAPAYA SALAD (Achara)

Ingredients:

Start with – 1 medium sized green papaya, peeled and seeded

  • ¼ -½ cup papaya, julienned or grated
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced onion (Filipinos traditionally use red onions, but white onions can be used for a milder flavor)
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorn
  • ½ of small red bell pepper (a green bell pepper can be substituted)
  • 1 – 3 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced, depending on preference
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled – you have two options:
    • If you like spicy, julienne the knob
    • If you want to keep it a little tamer, take the knob, keep it large and slice it thin or crush it but keep the knob intact for easy removal after the pickling process

Brine/Syrup

  • 2 cups vinegar (distilled or white)
    • As noted below, this is a very strong brine. Think sauerkraut strong. If you want to tone it down, you can change to 1/2 water / 1/2 vinegar…. Personally, I love it made at full power!
  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
photo of a green papaya peeled and seeded with some grated papaya

After peeling the papaya, cutting it in half and removing the seeds, it’s time to grate it.

 


How green should this papaya be? I’ve tried it three different way; very green and hard, still green but softening, or slightly ripe – which means the seeds have turned color and the ‘meat’ is more orange than white, but still firm. Honestly, my family prefers the orange as we find the very green is too ‘chewy’ (which I’m sure will horrify the traditionalists). Just note that with this option it will probably need to be eaten within a week after it has finished pickling. For that reason, I would probably recommend the softened green stage – easy to grate, east to chew and perfectly delicious.


Instructions:

 

Green papaya should be peeled, seeded, and grated or julienned. Note: traditionally the seeds should be white, darker seeds mean it might be too ripe for this recipe.

First step: Dehydrate the papaya

 this can take 1 hour to 2 days, depending on which method you use:

Option 1: Combine papaya and ¼ cup of salt in a bowl and let it sit for an hour or until the papaya begins to release liquid. Rinse papaya with cold water, using colander or just by adding more water to the bowl. Place papaya in cheesecloth and squeeze to dispel juices.

Option 2: Combine papaya, 5 cups water, and 4 tablespoons salt. Soak for two days, and then place in cheesecloth and squeeze out liquid.

Option 3: Combine papaya and ¼ cup of salt in a bowl and let it sit for in the fridge overnight. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth and plate or lid (cheesecloth should be used like a lid, and not necessarily touching the papaya). The following day, rinse papaya with cold water to remove excess salt, then place papaya in cheesecloth and squeeze to dispel juices.

Photo showing a papaya being squeezed to remove the moisture.

After salting and letting the grated papaya sit to release the moisture, take it and wrap it in cheese cloth or a loose linen towel to remove all water.

 

Step 2: Combining the ingredients

  1. Prepare the syrup. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil (use medium to low heat), then add sugar and salt. Stir until sugar and salt are well dissolved. Let it cool down until it is slightly warm to lukewarm. CAUTION: The vinegar is really acidic and boiling it may hurt your nose with its strong smell. You might want to put on some mask or cover your nose when doing this step, and make sure area is well ventilated.
  2. In another bowl, combine green papaya, carrots, onion, red bell pepper, and whole peppercorn.
  3. If you are using large pieces of ginger, place them in the bottom of a sterilized, airtight jar. If you prefer to leave them in to eat, mince them finely and add them along with the combined vegetables.
  4. If you want to remove the garlic at the end, place half cloves on top of the other vegetables in the jar, otherwise, mince them finely and also add them to the combined vegetable. Make sure you leave at least 3/4″ at the top for the liquid.
  5. Add the cooled syrup, filling it to the top, making sure it covers the salad.
  6. Seal the jar and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks. If you want to keep the spicy bite down, this is the time to remove the garlic and ginger. Mix the contents lightly before serving and further storing.
  7. Serve cold with fried, grilled, or roasted dishes.
photo of completed pickled salad after 2 weeks of pickling.

Once the pickling process is finished, place in a sealed jar or tightly covered plastic container with the brine still included.

Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 43 years, she has lived in Laie since serving a mission at the Polynesian Cultural Center from 2014 – 2016. She now serves as the blog manager for the Center. Her hobbies include swimming, traveling, studying and writing about what she is learning from the various Polynesian cultures. Her blogs focus on their history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.

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