Saturday, June 13, 2015

Caribbean papaya

Living in the Caribbeans is like living in the paradise. Not only breathtaking views but also the tropical fruits we can have. If you like pineapples, bananas, papayas, watermelons, mangoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes and spices, you are in heaven! But if you are not, I think you better be! I bet most of the full time live aboard sailors can't afford to pay a apple for more than 1 USD in most of the islands in the Caribbeans or 45 Eastern Caribbeans dollar (EC) or around 20 USD for a box of strawberry in St. Lucia on a daily basis. Even oranges can be found in most of the islands but it they are not as juicy as where we came from. So, the local fruits and vegetables are the only choice for us.

For example, I don't really like banana but there are bananas and plantains everywhere! I start to get used to banana cake then I eat them almost everyday. When the products in the market are not diversified, you must create some new dishes to avoid getting bored. 

One day, one of my friends living aboard with 3 kids ask me what she could do with papaya that she though it's ripe to eat but end up unripe and was white in color. The first answer and the only thing I could imagine for a Western person is “papaya salad or Som Tam in Thai”! Why? Because every one loves thai papaya salad. Even me, who don't eat ripe papaya, can't say no to the famous Thai dish. If you go to Thailand without trying papaya salad, you didn't really experienced Thailand!

I gave you an idea of food diversity, so now how to prepare it.
The ingredients I show here are not the same you will find the street stalls in Thailand. They are the ingredients I can find in the Caribbeans without paying the premium price of imported Oriental products.

What we need: 
1 unripe papaya (green skin and firm to touch)
Brown sugar
Fish sauce or soya sauce or if you don't have any can replace it with table salt
2-3 limes (depends on how sour you want it)
Roasted peanuts (if salted, add less fish sauce, soya sauce or salt) if you really don't have peanuts, it can be done with cashew nuts but the sauce will be less creamy
Mortar (if have, if not you can use a hand meat tenderizer) 
2-3 cloves of peeled garlic
Hand shredder

Optional:
Tamarind (dilute it with warm water to use together with lime juice, the tamarind gives a different sour taste from the lime and can be found almost in any garden in the Caribbean! It looks like a long brown fat bean when ripe!)
Tomato
Carrots
Lettuce
Apple
Shredded boiled chicken breasts or boiled shrimps

How to prepare:
1. Peal the papaya skin. Remove all the green part, after it's done wash well with fresh water. Then shred it thin. If you don't have hand shredder, you can thin chop papaya by hand with a sharp heavy knife.
2. Add garlic, chili, peanut in the mortar and mash well. If you don't have one, use a hand meat tenderizer by adding the garlic and chili in a plastic bag to avoid being messy.
3. Add the diluted brown sugar in warm water and then add fish sauce and lime juice.
4. Taste and adjust to your like. The taste should be a bit sweet and sour. 
5. Toss the shredded papaya with the dressing. If you have a mortar, you can mash it to make the papaya absorb the sauce.

The salad match well with grilled meat in the hot of the Caribbean and even better with cold Caribbean beer.
What I made it's not really the way it's done and sold in Thailand because I don't have a big mortar, bird eye chilies, which burn my tongue, sour tamarind, palm sugar, dried shrimps, long beans, thai cherry tomatoes or “Pla Ra” (which tastes and smells as bad as dried anchovy), but it can replace when I really miss it and make my Caribbeans grocery shopping happier and diversified.

We always say that the food at home is the best. It's the same on our floating sailing home!
Papaya tree in Les Saintes
The chef
Lunch on s/v Dee
Two kids eating "papaya salad" made without papaya but carrot and apple

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