Papaya Salad

When you can’t buy papaya salad at the Hmong market and you have to learn how to make it yourself! Seriously. lol Who else can relate? 😀 I’ve never craved for papaya salad so bad in my life until my friend Jeanny and I talked about it a few months back. I missed the combination of the sweet, spicy, and sour flavors of papaya salad, followed by a tangy, tamarind sauce. It’s such a fresh and satisfying dish, and even better when you’re in the company of family and good friends.

Papaya salad is an iconic part of Hmong culture and food, influenced by both Lao & Thai cuisine. When you go to a Hmong market, nearly every food vendor makes papaya salad. It’s also the dish that many Hmong people look forward to eating the most at the Hmong New Year.

I love all ingredients that go into making this dish – tomatoes, peanuts, Thai egg plants… but my favorite of all would have to be the long beans. Not only does it add color to the papaya salad – which makes it look even more appetizing – but it also adds a fresh, organic, and crisp flavor to it. Which part of the papaya salad do you look forward to eating the most?

This Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler is a great gadget to have. It’ll make your life so much easier – trust me! It’s handy dandy, inexpensive, and very easy to use. Before this peeler was ever invented, the old-fashion way to do this is to create multiple deep and long vertical cuts into the green papaya with your knife and then shave it off. If you don’t have a Kiwi peeler, I would recommend this method. However, I did link the Kiwi peeler above for your review in case you’re interested in purchasing one. You should also be able to find one at your local Asian store.

You can use a knife to peel off the outer layer of the green papaya first before making the papaya strands, but a Kiwi peeler will also get the job done for you. Much easier and faster. Discard the outer green layer after removing it. Then, shred the green papaya to create the papaya strands until you can no longer shred any more. I like a variety of short, medium, and long papaya strands. You can always refrigerate unused strands.

Below is a short video showing you how I make papaya salad. Watch in HD 1080p for better quality.

This dish will require a medium or large-sized mortar and pestle as you just saw in the video. I know mine was quite small but luckily I was still able to make it work. 🙂 I recommend a medium or large size because you’ll have more room to work with your papaya salad.

Papaya salad reminds me of my father the most. Whenever he buys it from the Hmong store or flea market, he always asks for it with a lot of Thai chili peppers and then he’ll come home and add some more of his own. He loves it extraaa spicy. I secretly think that he makes it over-spicy so that no one can eat it but him. Sneaky, dad. Very sneaky. 😛

There are many variations to this salad. For instance, instead of green papaya, you can try carrots or unripe mangoes. I love using papaya the best! Serve this with sticky rice and a side of fresh cabbage and fried pork rinds.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I have to drive an hour away from home just to get certain ingredients? That was fun (being sarcastic here) but the result of this papaya salad is worth it! 🙂

Papaya Salad
Serves 3
Papaya salad is an iconic part of Hmong culture & food. It has a combination of sweet, spicy, and sour flavors, followed by a tangy, tamarind sauce.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1 1/2 cup of green papaya strands
  2. 6-7 cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
  3. 3-4 long beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  4. 1 Thai egg plant, sliced into 4-6 pieces
  5. 2 tablespoons of peanuts, lightly crushed
  6. 3 tablespoons of crab sauce (Ba Khia brand)
  7. 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste
  8. 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste (seedless)
  9. 2 tablespoons of fresh tamarind concentrate
  10. 1 tablespoon of padek sauce (Round Scad Fish Sauce - Bagoong Balayan)
  11. 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  12. 1 tablespoon of palm sugar, finely crushed
  13. 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice
  14. 6 thai chili peppers, optional
  15. 2-3 gloves of garlic
  1. In your mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and Thai chili peppers together until texture is fine.
  2. Next, add the palm sugar, tamarind paste, and shrimp paste. Continue to pound all of the ingredients together until a smooth paste is formed. With the tamarind paste being so compact, you especially want to break it down so that it spreads evenly with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Then, add the fresh tamarind concentrate, padek sauce, crab sauce, fish sauce, and lime juice. Mix everything together using a spoon.
  4. Add in the cherry tomatoes, long beans, thai egg plant, and peanuts. Lightly pound them to break them a bit in order for the flavor of the papaya sauce to penetrate into the vegetables.
  5. Add in the green papaya strands and pound all the ingredients together while using a spoon to constantly fold the salad in on itself to ensure even distribution of the sauce.
  1. Yields: 1 papaya salad dish
  2. Special materials needed: medium or large-size mortar & pestle and a Kiwi pro slice peeler

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