Thursday, July 22, 2010

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns

I cannot get enough Thai food, I absolutely love it!  If there was one word that I would use to describe this cuisine, it would be harmonious.  Thai cooking is based on blending the five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot.  It's often lightly prepared but achieves a perfect balance of these flavors in each dish or in the overall meal. 

When cooking Thai food at home, your most valuable tools are your tastebuds.  I am constantly tasting to ensure that I achieve that perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, hot, and sometimes bitter.  Too sour?  Need more of kick?  Not sweet enough?  Below are a few ingredients that I find key when I am trying to balance out my dish:

         - Sweet - palm sugar, honey, fruit
         - Salty - fish sauce, soy sauce
         - Sour - lemon, lime, sour fruits
         - Hot - fresh chilli, dried chilli, pepper
         - Bitter - raw leaves, bitter fruits
         - Fresh herbs and aromatics are also key - cilantro, lemon grass, Thai basil, mint, ginger, galangal, garlic, to name a few...

Green papaya salad is a very popular dish in Thailand and it's one of my favorites as well.  I would make it more often but it's not always easy to find green, unripe papayas.  You cannot substitute a ripe papaya as both the texture and flavor will not suit the dish.  Unripe papayas have a very mild flavor but absorb flavors well.  Healthy and packed with flavor, this dinner didn't stand a chance!  I added some grilled prawns to add a bit more substance.  Needless to say, there were just a few lonely fish heads left on my plate...

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns


12 large king prawns, deveined, head and tail on
1 chilli, minced
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Green Papaya Salad:
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp coarse salt, more as needed
2 chillies, chopped
2 tbsp dried shrimp
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 green, unripe papaya, shredded or finely julienned
1 cups bean sprouts
3 green onions, sliced diagonally into thin strips
1/2 cup Thai basil, large leaves sliced into strips
1/4 cup coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed (I left these out as my fiancé claims he’s allergic)


1. Combine ingredients for marinade and marinate the prawns while you make the salad.

2. Pound garlic, salt and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add dried shrimp and sugar and pound into a coarse paste. Mix with lime juice and fish sauce.

3. Gently bruise the papaya, combine with the sprouts, onions, and herbs, and toss with the dressing.

4. Make sure to taste test to ensure the flavors are balanced. Not sweet enough - add a little honey. Not salty enough- add a little more fish sauce. Too sweet or salty - add more lime juice. Need a bit more a kick – add some minced chilli.

6. Grill the prawns for 3 minutes on each side until just cooked through.

7. Sprinkle the salad with peanuts and arrange the prawns on top.


  1. Fabulous write up....this looks amazing!!!

  2. Wow. John is spot on. Fabulous & amazing. Can we also add gorgeous and mouthwatering? I want to eat this right this very minute. Papaya salad sounds like a delightful treat in this humid New England weather!



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