Papaya are rich in vitamins A and C as well as potassium. The skin as well as the core of the green fruit is rich in a protein-digesting enzyme called papain. It makes a very good natural meat tenderizer and is much used in Thailand, especially on local beef which traditionally has been quite tough. However, it’s over-use results in the meat taking on a rubbery texture that can be quite odd in the mouth.

Carrot Som Tam

Shredded carrot most closely matches the texture, if not the colour or flavour, of green papaya. This recipe is similar to one that has proved successful at the restaurant chain in Thailand where I used to work, and also utilizes ingredients easily found outside of the country. You can of course substitute fresh string beans for the long beans.

Green Papaya Salad

If there's such a thing as a single national dish for Thailand, it wouldn't be the Tom Yum soup widely known among western visitors and Thai food aficionados. It would almost certainly be the sweet, hot and sour salad made with green papaya. Such is the popularity of this dish that entire television shows, songs and books have been devoted to it.


Papaya, or malagaw in Thai, is another imported fruit that has found a key place in Thai cuisine. The tree was first described by a Spanish chronicler name Oviedo in 1526 as found along the coasts of present day Panama and Columbia. The abundant seeds of the fruit are viable for up to three years, which allowed the fruit to be easily spread throughout the tropics. By the end of the sixteenth century the Spanish and Portuguese had spread the papaya to their colonies in India, Malacca and the Philippines.

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