Papaya and Mango have entirely different characters. Green papaya has a foamy texture and almost tasteless flavor but add some seasoning and the papaya flesh becomes sweet and crispy with a mild cucumber-like flavor. While mango, you need to be prepared for their sourness when they’re green but some green mangoes are incredibly crunchy, with mild sweetness, nutty and slightly floral notes. Ripe papaya has a creamy and sweet flesh with a musky taste while mango is deliciously sweet with spicy and floral flavors. While papaya and mango are unique on their own, they complement each other.
Here in Canada and all over the world, each community comprises different groups of people, different cultures, different cuisine and different languages. Even though, we are still united in the best large context and are proud as we celebrate our own unique differences and qualities. The same thing when we talk about food. Every ingredient has its own specialty and each of them has its own distinct flavor and texture, together with your perfect rhythm and tastebuds it makes a delicious and tasty dish without losing the distinctiveness of each element.
There are times when it is so quiet at home. All I could hear is my breathing in and out even though there are two children of God in the other room. Sometimes, too quiet is also deafening but thank goodness! There is food to get everyone’s attention.
I was on my way into the produce section at the grocery store and noticed one of the employees unloading papayas to their shelves, and you know how fast your mind travels especially when you have a connection to one thing. As an immigrant, trigger points to get homesick are everywhere no matter how much you play it down, no matter how much I convince myself “this is home”, my heart still yearns for something. I remember my mother showing me how to make her delicious green papaya relish (atsara) and stashed it in a nicely sealed jar for my home economics project to be displayed during our schools’ foundation day celebration. I remember how excited and proud my mother was when other parents and guests wanting to take them home. We grew up with a papaya tree at the back of our house that produces a lot of fruits. As kids, all we know – when we need vegetables for our meal, we will pick up the green young once for cooking. When we’re hungry in the middle of the day longing for some snacks, we will climb the papaya tree and pick one that just starts to get yellow at the tip. Peel, clean the seeds out, cut into long thick slices and dip in a white vinegar muddled with garlic, hot chilies, salt and pepper. My God, it felt like we were the dragons blowing fire out of our mouths every time we chew and swallow each bite. The intensity of dip, dunk and eat is so infectious that made our eyes watery and gives us a clear runny nose but that doesn’t bother us. I think it is safe to say, the joy of eating papaya and chilli. When papayas are ripe and soft, even better and easier…. just cut into half, scoop the seeds out and spoon the flesh, a perfect candy (but you only get the sweet-sweetness when you picked it up fully ripped from the papaya tree)….Memories
During mango season between march to late Summer, green mangoes are also one of our snacks. But unlike papaya that is just mildly sweet, some mangoes could be very sour depending on what kind or where they came from. We really had fun when my father bought a green mango not knowing how sour it was, he needed to hug a big tree or anything hard before swallowing it; It was a loud laugh to see his facial expression got deformed, that’s how sour it was when you’re not lucky. Peel the mango and cut it into chunky slices. we use white vinegar and chili dipping sauce as well but for the mango, the two most popular condiments are the stinky fermented fish (we call it Bagoong) or a shrimp paste (Aramang) which both are really salty, that if you’re not careful about your intake, you might end up having a high blood pressure monitor. It may not sound too appealing to some but it’s mouth-watering to most Filipinos.
We never use the word dessert (I don’t think there is even a word “dessert” in our dialect). When we need something sweet after a meal, this is where ripe papaya or ripe mangoes come in to curb our sweet tooth. Except for the odd time when we make our dessert from glutinous rice. Cooked with coconut milk and turbinado sugar, it is sweet, sticky and delicious.
Papaya and mango used to be our snacks the way I treat the most loved potato chips “lays” dipped in apple cider vinegar as my snack (one of my recent comfort food). Instead of ripe papaya and mango for dessert, I have chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting…… (what have I done to myself, another story of my life)
Putting all these memories and everything I learned as I became a serious cook is bliss on my plate. I made it to nourish my body and feed my soul.
When I approached the guy stocking those papayas on the shelves, I told him, “I need a green papaya” and immediately he understands what I meant….”ahhhhh, you need vegetable?” he said. So I asked if he eats and likes green papaya and immediately he pointed to his belly, telling me “it is soo good for this”. How did you know it I asked again, “my grandparents and my parents eat it for the same purpose”; he responded. I get it! How wonderful it is to know people who understand and respect the nutritional value of what they’re eating, that is what I admire the most.
Papayas, aside from the great memories that brought me something good, it has many uses from the trunk, leaves flesh and seeds. In tropical Latin America, cooks and chefs use the leaves as a meat tenderizer but my grandmother pound and muddle the leaf and rubbed it on my knees every time I got wounded to stop the bleeding to heal faster as she prays for some blessing (I’m one of those who are prone to falling as a kid, another reason I’m not a good runner I think). People who live in the tropical regions are lucky that they can get the benefit of the whole tree but, I’m still grateful that papaya is a year-round supply here in Canada, green or ripe.
Papaya’s main medicinal use aside from being delicious is a digestive agent. Papain, which is found in the milky white latex that flows from the incisions in the unripe papaya fruit is the protein dissolving enzyme that aids digestion which is especially and highly effective. If you feel like you need a purgative for worms, eat the seeds 1 Like what my daughter keeps telling me, Eat a lot of papaya to keep you away from aging skin dilemma, Amen to that!
Mango’s has also significant nutritional benefits. High in fiber, a great source of vitamins, antioxidants. Mangos also help the digestive system, there was actually a pilot study for people who have chronic constipation and eating mangos over a 4 week period shows a significant improvement in their constipation symptoms2
Putting all these memories and everything I learned from all the years of cooking, reading and researching is bliss on my plate.
You can omit papaya or mango in this recipe, but please don’t remove the fish sauce(unless you have to) if you want to create this salad with southeast Asian flare, this is what all about. Papaya and mango salad is a combination of my childhood happy memories influenced by Thai cooking. This lime-ginger vinaigrette is not only for salad, it is also best enjoyed for meat marinade, any type of salad and fantastic to serve with steamed or fried fish too. So, what are we waiting for? Maybe let’s start making a list or you might have most of the ingredients and the only thing you need to look for are green papaya and mango. Papaya and mango are mostly available in the produce section of any grocery store. If there’s an Asian grocery store that you know of, it will be worth the travel to pick some green papayas and green mangoes. Get extra, green papayas and mangoes can survive on the countertop for two weeks (by then they’re ripe) or tuck the papayas and mangoes in the vegetable section of your fridge for the next use. There will be more recipes coming out. When you made it, please don’t be shy to come back and leave a comment, I’ll take everything that you say..Talk to you next time.
MANGO AND PAPAYA SALAD WITH GINGER AND LIME VINAIGRETTE
- 1 small to medium green or mid ripe but firm Papaya
- 1 large Mango, green or mid ripe but firm
- 1/4 cup Cilantro leaves, packed
- 10 Mint leaves, torn
- 1 Chilli, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon Ginger, grated or finely minced
- 1 large Lime, zest and juice
- 1 tbsp Kaffir lime leaf, thinly sliced (if available) or 2 tablespoons grated lemongrass
- 1 large Garlic cloves, minced
- 4 sprigs Cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
- 10 Mint leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp Thai chili (optional), chopped
- 2 tablespoon Fish sauce
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Palm sugar or Brown sugar
- 1 few grind of Pepper
- 1 tbsp Salt to taste
- Half the papaya, scoop the seeds out and peel. Using a knife and chopping board or mandoline, julienne, or shred the papaya. Peel and shred the mango, the same size as the papaya. (don't forget there's a big flat stone at the center) Place in a large bowl combine with cilantro, mint and chili slices if using and set aside.
- Using a food processor, Place all the ingredients except salt. Process until smooth, taste, and add salt if necessary, add extra sugar or lime juice according to your taste. It should taste a little spicy, sweet and sour.
- Using pestle and mortar, add the herbs and ground pepper; muddle until they're all fully incorporated turning into a paste. Transfer to a small lidded jar, add the rest of the ingredients and shake until all the ingredients are infused together.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette into the bowl of papaya and mango and toss coating every strand. Line a leaf of lettuces, followed by papaya and mango salad. Serve immediately and enjoy!