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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve with steamed rice as a vegetarian entree or accompaniment to roasted chicken. Serves 6.
Oaxaca Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney Recipe: With Some Heat!
Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney atop Boulanc’s walnut infused rye bread
I’ve been sequestered in my Teotitlan del Valle casita for some days now (without internet connection), more out of choice than anything. Best to hide from the heat of the day under the ceiling fan with a sewing or cooking project.
Saucepan with fruit and spices before taking the heat
So, after a trip to the Tlacolula market on Sunday where I saw an overabundance of fresh mango and papaya piled to the rooftops, I had to have some. Then, there were the tomatoes, everywhere. Did you know that tomatoes are one of Mexico’s gifts to the world?
A full pot as the cooking gets underway!
I went home and made up this recipe for a chutney jam that is great on toast or to accompany meat, poultry fish or top on steamed veggies and rice.
Lime juice and zest makes this recipe tangy sweet a la Oaxaca
I grow these peppers in a pot on my rooftop terrace. They add the heat! They are either Fresno or Serrano peppers. Not exactly sure!
Put all fruit and spices together into a six quart saucepan. Add lime juice and zest. Stir in sugar. Stir well. Put saucepan on a heat diffuser over low heat for temperature control and so bottom of pan doesn’t burn. Sugar and juices will dissolve together into a thin syrup with fruit floating around. Bring to simmer.
Note: Remove the peppers mid-way through the cooking process if you don’t like spicy.
Continue cooking on simmer, stirring frequently, until liquid reduces by 50% and thickens to a jam consistency. You can use a thermometer or test for doneness if liquid drops in thick globules from a metal spoon raised about 12″ above the sauce pan.
When it’s done, it looks like this. Of course you can always sample for thickness.
We live at 6,000 feet altitude here in Oaxaca, so cooking takes time. The chutney jam was ready after about 2 hours on the burner. Patience here is a virtue!
The lowest flame on my stove. Note the heat diffuser.
Refrigerate to eat within the next week or two. Or, process for 10 minutes in canning jars in a water bath until the tops seal.
I’ll freeze a small batch and eat the rest. Maybe you’ll come for dinner?
Tips: Last week I used cantaloupe and did not use tomatoes or pineapple. I also substituted kumquat for ginger. You could also add thin slices of oranges and lemons instead of the lime and use 1/4 c. vinegar. Muy sabroso!
Candied ginger, my stash from Pittsboro, North Carolina, used with consideration.
I want to acknowledge two friends who gave me recipe inspiration: Natalie Klein from South Bend, Indiana, and David Levin from Oaxaca and Toronto. Natalie is a friend of 40+ years who shared her tomato ginger chutney recipe with me and I have adapted it many times, even canning and selling it.
Close-up of the fruit and spice medley
David (and friend Carol Lynne) returned from Southeast Asia a few months ago where they took cooking classes. David has made chutney ever since. He inspired me to try my own hand at the concoction.
Lime zest sits on pile of julienne white onions
More years ago than I care to count, I owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school, and cafe. It’s in my DNA.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Food & Recipes, Photography
Tagged candied fruit, chutney, condiment, cook, eat, food, ginger, jam, Mango, Mexico, Oaxaca, papaya, pineapple, recipe, tomato