Why, you ask, is Norma putting a recipe for green papaya on her blog about Oaxaca? Isn’t Green papaya found on Thai restaurant menus shredded as salad? Isn’t it part of Southeast Asian cuisine topped with curry paste? Why not Green Papaya Mexican Chili Salsa?
Papaya is native to the tropics of the Americas, including the coast of Oaxaca, Veracuz and Chiapas. It was first cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. It has extraordinary medicinal properties; indigenous women used it to tenderize meat and for personal use as a contraceptive.
Green papaya with spinach and tomato
Papaya is plentiful in all Oaxaca markets. Sometimes the skin is so bright pink-orange and ripe that with one squeeze you know it could open up, and you would have to eat it right then and there on the street. Papaya sprinkled with Tajin (get it in your local Mexican market) or fresh lime juice is a perfect treat.
Stir-fry green papaya in Wok on high heat
We are not so lucky in the U.S. Juicy, ripe papaya is hard to come by. Stephen, in his market comings and goings around town, arrived home with a pile of organic green papaya. These did not even have a hint of “ripe” written on them. They were nearly rock hard. “Is this food?” I asked. Then, “Let’s see what we can do with them.” The closest thing I could come up with was papaya in green curry sauce, but we had none of the traditional ingredients on hand. I had fresh spinach and cilantro, no lemongrass. I had tomatoes, no coconut milk. I had scallions, no shallots. I DID have garlic, salt, red pepper, turmeric, paprika, So I made it up as I went along. Now, I’m passing it along to you.
Prepare chili paste in food processor
Mexican Green Papaya Chili Salsa
- 2 large green papaya, peeled, halved, seeded
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 6-10 scallions, trimmed, cut into 2″ pieces
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes or 4 tomatillos
- 2 cups fresh spinach, washed, trimmed, leaves only
- 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, washed, trimmed
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 t. powdered turmeric
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- 1 t. paprika
- fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1/4-1/2 c. oil for cooking
- a Wok
Papaya preparation: cut the hard ends off the papaya halves. Cut pieces uniformly about 1/2″ x 1/4″ and put in bowl. Wash.
In food processor add: garlic, scallions, spinach, cilantro and tomatoes. Process until smooth. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, and salt. Process for 30 seconds. Set bowl aside.
Add oil to Wok and heat on high burner for about 2-3 minutes until oil sizzles when you flick a bit of cold water into it. Add papaya. Keep heat on high and attend the Wok, turning the papaya every 2-3 minutes until it is browned and begins to soften. Do not walk away. After about 15 minutes, cover the Wok and let the papaya continue to cook on high heat for another 5-7 minutes. Stir the papaya once or twice during this time.
Remove the lid. Pour the spinach-cilantro mixture over the papaya and stir. Continue to cook over high heat until mixture thickens and papaya is soft.
Pour salsa over papaya, then stir
Serve with steamed rice as a vegetarian entree or accompaniment to roasted chicken. Serves 6.
Cook mixture until sauce is thick and papaya is soft
Christmas In Oaxaca, Mexico: Feliz Navidad
At this moment, it is snowing in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and it is cold outside. Tonight it will be 27 degrees. Brrrr.
On the other hand, in Oaxaca de Juarez today it will reach a balmy 82 degrees Fahrenheit and drop to 47 degrees Fahrenheit — great sleeping weather. It should be a beautiful Christmas season — as usual. A good time to head south. For those of you who are already there on winter vacation or plan to be there in the next week, here are some recommendations for what to do and see in the city and in the village of Teotitlan del Valle. Have a festive holiday season! Feliz Navidad.
The article, “Christmas Vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico; Feliz Navidad,” with accompanying photos that I just published for Suite 101 includes tips and descriptions for the following:
December 23: La Noche de los Rabanos
La Ultima Posada, Teotitlan del Valle
Christmas Eve: Calendulas, posadas, y misas (processions and masses)
Christmas Day: Blessing of the Buses
New Year’s Eve Festivities in the City
Las Cuevitas in Teotitlan del Valle, January 2, 2011
Christmas Day Fiesta Meal
Fiesta of the Three Kings, January 6
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Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture
Tagged Christmas, Christmas vacation, Feliz Navidad, Mexico, Oaxaca