At the wet market, I can purchase everything that I need to make the delicious spicy papaya salad. However, it is also possible to make this dish using the ingredients available in American grocery stores. The most important ingredient is, of course, the papaya. It is important to choose one that is under-ripe and still has a green skin. The flesh of the fruit should be mostly white but can be verging on light orange. The garnishes that are common to the dish, such as peanuts and scallions, are sold by American grocers. Sometimes thin slices of garlic are also added to the dish.
|Chi Lin Buddhist Temple, Hong Kong
The chiles that are used in the authentic version of this recipe are called Thai bird chiles and are close to habanero peppers on the hotness scale. They are long, thin peppers that range in color from green to orange and red. The recipe is best enjoyed when it is made with slices of Thai bird chiles, but fresh cayenne peppers or jalapeño peppers can be used as a substitute.
Another one of my favorite dishes is spicy soba, which is a kind of delicious noodle soup. I’ve actually sent the recipe to friends back home who have successfully made it with ingredients available in their local grocery stores. I’ve also come to love kimchi, which is a spicy Korean condiment made with cabbage. It’s usually eaten along with barbeque. So the next time you are planning on grilling out, stop at the international foods section in your grocery store and grab a jar of kimchi. Enjoy it with grilled steak, marinated chicken, and especially with fish and shrimp.
While I may have a hard time finding a New York-style bagel here in Hong Kong, I am certainly eating well and having fun. And I am glad to know that, when my husband and I return to the U.S., I’ll still be able to enjoy the dishes that I am falling in love with here in Asia. Happy cooking!
Spicy Papaya Salad
This recipe is the Thai equivalent to American coleslaw. It’s got a similar crunch, a similar freshness, but a lot of spice. Enjoy it on its own as a meal or along with your favorite curry.
1 green papaya, peeled, seeded, and shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 ripe tomato or 5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1-2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1 seeded and chopped Thai bird chili, jalapeño pepper, or fresh cayenne pepper
The juice of 1-2 limes, preferably key limes
Salt to taste
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
1 Tbsp. garlic, thinly sliced
Add all of the ingredients into a large serving bowl, toss, and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Serve topped with crushed peanuts and fresh garlic slices.
Serves two as a meal, or four as a side.
Heat scale: medium