Semi-ripe papaya, cucumber, mango, lettuce, toasted cashew nuts and sesame seeds are tossed with a light dressing to make Vietnamese-style papaya and mango salad.
It’s inspired by one of the dishes we made in the farm-to-table cooking class in Vietnam. When we were prepping the salad in class, our instructor reminded us that there’s nothing strict about the mix of ingredients. We cold substitute green mangoes for the papaya, for instance, or add other vegetables.
When we got home, I was excited to make my own Vietnamese-style salad and I asked Speedy to buy green papaya. But, busy as we were munching on chocolates and trying our the coffee we brought home from Vietnam, the papaya sat on the kitchen table for a day and a half. When I cut it open…
Well, you can imagine how my excitement grew. This was exactly the stage of ripeness of the papaya that we used in Vietnam. Brightly-colored but still firm and not yet sweet.
To add to the papaya, I chose cucumber.
Just like the papaya, I thinly sliced a cucumber then cut the slices into thin strips.
For color and a bit of sweetness, a ripe mango was thrown into the mix.
It’s impossible to thinly slice ripe mango because it is too slipper. What I did was to score the mango then separated the strips by making shallow scoops with a spoon.
Adding lettuce was an afterthought. There were no leafy vegetables in the salad we made in Vietnam but we had half a bunch of lettuce in the fridge that was in danger of wilting soon. I rinsed the leaves, passed them through the salad spinner then cut them into half-inch strips.
The dressing had been prepared earlier. The toasted nuts and sesame seeds had cooled. Time to assemble my Vietnamese-style papaya and mango salad.
Vietnamese-style Papaya and Mango Salad
For the dressing
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons calamansi juice (or lemon or lime juice), freshly squeezed
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 generous pinch minced garlic
- 1 generous pinch finely chopped chili
For the salad
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (peanuts are more traditional but I used cashew)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 semi-ripe papaya
- 1 cucumber
- 1 ripe mango
- 1 handful lettuce
Make the dressing
- Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar with a screw-on cap. Put on the cap and tighten. Shake the contents gently until the sugar is fully dissolved. Sat aside to infuse.
Toast the nuts and sesame seeds
- Heat a frying pan. Spread the cashew nuts and toast, tossing the pan occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Add the sesame seeds to the nuts and continue toasting until both nuts and sesame seeds are nicely browned. Set aside to cool.
Prep the fruits and veggies
- Peel the papaya. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Thinly slice the papaya flesh then cut the thin slices into strips no more than a quarter of an inch wide.
- Split the cucumber into halves. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut in the same way you cut the papaya.
- Cut the mango and discard the stone. Score both “cheeks” thinly then separate the strips by scooping our shallowly with a spoon.
- Rinse the lettuce. Dry in a salad spinner. Cut the leaves into half-inch slices.
Assemble the salad
- Place the papaya, cucumber, mango, lettuce and half of the nuts and sesame seeds in a mixing bowl.
- Drizzle in half of the dressing and toss lightly but thoroughly.
- Taste. Add the rest of the dressing, if you prefer.
- Divide the salad among four bowls or plates. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
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