While the onset of Spring is wont to usher in a spate of newness in the garden and kitchen, some memories of gardens and kitchens from other worlds are known to gingerly belly their way to the forefront. A Papaya tree in the backyard of a faraway home didn’t suffice to induce a liking for the fruit during the childhood years. The soft folds of the apricot-tinted power fruit seemed, to one’s unaffected senses, a mite too repulsive. But the firmer, pallid insides of the raw fruit, with its mangoey zing and squash-like suppleness, appealed to the palate rather facilely. The thought of it stirs a sudden craving in one, and the feet, still chapped and callused from Winter’s goodbye kisses, tarry along to the Indian store so one can unhitch the grip of the brown paper rolls on the wax-glazed, hard-lined find and bring it in. The nip in the air teases the skin, and once in, as the strips of green peel shimmy down gracefully on the cutting board, the tender, pale flesh bares itself earnestly, presenting a slew of ideas to the prudent cook’s mind, among which a slaw, daintily grated and treated with tropical flavors, seems the most winsome, momentarily..
Raw Papaya Slaw
- 1 Tablespoon light olive oil or peanut oil
- 1/4 Teaspoon cumin, coarsely crushed
- 1 Small white onion, sliced thin and long
- 2-3 Pods of garlic, crushed or grated
- 1 Small-medium sized raw papaya, peeled and grated
- Salt according to taste
- Mint for garnishing (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 Teaspoon ginger jelly or pepper jelly or freshly grated ginger
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons vinegar
- A squirt of hot sauce (optional)
- 1/2 Teaspoon red chilli flakes/ a dash of red chilli powder (or both)
- 1/2 Teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
- 2 Stems of green onions/ scallions, chopped fine
- 1 Teaspoon sesame oil
- A pinch of salt
Whisk the above and set aside.
In a pan, warm the olive/ peanut oil and toss in the crushed cumin. Add the onion and garlic, stir until they cook down and turn translucent, then add the grated papaya. Saute for 2 minutes, mix in the salt, turn off heat and let sit for another 2 minutes. Pour the dressing and mix well. Garnish with mint leaves if using, and serve warm.
Serving Options –
This slightly tangy, slightly sweet warm slaw with Thai-inspired flavors can be relished by itself or sandwiched between warm toasts, or even tucked into a pita or roti wrap.