Yield
Serves 4
Time
5 minutes prep, 10 minutes cooking, 15 minutes total
Unripe Papaya Salad with Chilies
Kacchu Papaya Nu Salade
 
This is a specialty from Surat in northwestern India. I am always drawn to the scent of a green papaya enhanced by nutty mustard seed popped in hot oil. I often make a point of strolling through certain suburban districts in Mumbai on Sunday mornings when the allure of freshly fried papdis (wide strips of hand-pushed garbanzo bean flour dough) draws me to the line of customers who patiently await their turn to buy grease-stained, newspaper-wrapped packets of papdi and plastic bags filled with this mouth-watering salad accompaniment.
 
Back at home, I serve this as an appetizer with baskets of flame-roasted or fried papads (lentil wafers). Enjoy them on hot buttered toast for a quick lunch.

Ingredients
  • 1 medium green (unripe) papaya, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced (see note)
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 to 4 fresh Thai, cayenne, or serrano chilies, slit open lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing (asafetida)
Instructions
 
1. In a medium bowl, combine the papaya, lime juice, cilantro, salt, sugar, turmeric, and chilies. Mix well.
 
2. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat; add the mustard seed. When it begins to pop, cover the skillet. As soon as the seed finishes popping, add the hing and sizzle for 2 to 5 seconds. Pour the seed-oil mixture over the papaya and toss well to coat. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
 
Note: Choose a papaya that is green, firm, and unripe. Peel it with a potato peeler or a paring knife. The flesh will be light green in color (unlike the orange/red color when ripe). Slice the papaya lengthwise, and with a spoon scoop out and discard the pearl-like white seeds (which will turn a beautiful black color when ripe). Use the slicer blade attachment of a food processor to slice the papaya thin; a box grater's slicer surface will also suffice.

Adapted from The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood by Raghavan Iyer (St. Martin's Press, 2002). Copyright 2002 by Raghavan Iyer.