Sunday, March 13, 2011

Iron Chef Green: Green Papaya Salad

I really wasn't trying to win Iron Chef Green. When I found out that everyone agreed to do the green theme for this iron chef I didn't feel particularly inspired. So, I picked a "side" dish thinking it would be a throw away iron chef. However, sometimes inspiration comes along in funny ways. I literally dreamt up the idea to use chinese take-out containers for my presentation. Granted, the containers weren't exactly a true green color, but, hey, aqua is in the "green" family as the lady at World Market told me. For the most part, I looked for my green side dish on Tastespotting's website, but I came across this green papaya salad when searching on google for green dishes. The recipe got 3 good reviews, and I read that this particularly dish was voted the favorite dish in Thailand. So, I thought I'd try it. I mean how could the people of Thailand have it wrong, right? Well, they didn't have it wrong. They had it oh so very right. This thai salad was delicious if I do say so myself. It had lots of flavor, texture, and packed plenty of heat. I highly recommend this dish. And, I plan on making it for my mom and sister the first chance I get. Enjoy!

Note: I didn't use the exact ingredients from the website. I seriously gagged when I tried the dressing recipe using the shrimp paste and the fish sauce. So, I opted out of the fish sauce and used the soy sauce instead. Otherwise, this recipe would have seriously bombed. Also, the recipe didn't call for pistachios, but I used them anyway to add some more "green" to the dish. I used roasted peanuts, and not honey roasted. I toasted the nuts in a skillet on the stove for about 5 minutes. I also used a cucumber, green jalapneo, and roma tomatoes. Basically, the salad was a combination of the recipe and this link.

1 small green papaya, OR 1/2 large (your papaya should be very firm, the flesh white to light orange in color)
1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts OR plain roasted, or glazed cashews (see recipe link below)
1-2 cups bean sprouts
1 to 2 tomatoes, cut into long thin strips
1 red chili, minced (seeds removed if you prefer a milder salad)
3 spring onions (AKA Green Onions), sliced into long matchstick-like pieces
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped if leaves are large
Handful of fresh coriander (AKA Cilantro)
1/2 cup pistachios
1 cucumber

1/2 tsp. shrimp paste (if vegetarian, substitute 1 extra Tbsp. soy sauce)
2 Tbsp. good-tasting oil, such as olive
2 Tbsp. fish sauce OR vegetarian fish sauce, OR 2+1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. liquid honey

Spice Paste:
3 garlic cloves
1 red chili pepper (seeded and roughly chopped)
1 jalapeno, optional (seeded and roughly chopped)
Handful of green beans

This recipe requires quite a bit of prep work, but it's worth it. The first thing I did was make my dressing. I tried the recipe above using the shrimp paste and fish sauce, and like I said above; it was awful. So, I subbed the fish sauce for the soy sauce, and it was much better. I added a bit more honey and lime juice because I thought it was a tad too salty. I think it helped.

Next, I made the spice paste. I took 3 garlic cloves, 1 red chili pepper, 1 jalapeno, and a handful of green beans. I did boil the green beans in water for about 5 minutes, and then blanched them in ice water and dried. I roughtly chopped the garlic, jalapeno, and chili pepper. I also removed the seeds from the peppers. Process those ingredients in a food processor. Set aside.

Then, I started peeling and slicing all of the veggies. If you look at the How to Make Green Papaya salad link above, it shows you how to slice the vegetables. You want them thin and long. I made sure the tomatoes and cucumbers were roughly the same size in length. The bean sprouts were pre-cut. Peel your papaya and cut lengthwise in half. Remove the seeds. I turned over the papaya so the inside of the fruit was faced-down. Then, I used my julienne peeler and "grated" the papaya so I had long strips. That julienne peeler was a life-savor. It didn't take that long at all to peel most of the papaya. I used a large papaya and it created a lot of strips.

Roughly chop a handful of the cilantro and basil. Coriander is cilantro in case you didn't know.

Roughly chop your nuts.

Take a large bowl and combine the veggies, the herbs, and the papaya. Add the spice paste and stir the ingredients so the paste is incorporated well. Add the dressing and stir so that it's mixed in well. Add the nuts and stir again. Serve and sprinkle with some additional cilantro and basil for presentation. According to the recipe you could easily add crab meat or shrimp to make it a wonderful entree.

(Click here for printable recipe)

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