At the Sebastopol farmers market a couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friends Rod and Catherine of The Farmhouse Inn, who were enjoying breakfast at Mateo’s tamale booth while their adorable kids played nearby. When they mentioned they’d misplaced my recipe for

The Green Papaya Salad booth at the Paradise Farmers Market, south of Hilo on Hawaii Moku

Green Papaya Salad, I promised to post it and so, here it is.

Green Papaya Salad is refreshing in the way that only the foods of Thailand and Vietnam are refreshing. The salad relies on an interplay of flavors–sour, salty, sweet and bitter–and textures and the results are all but irresistible.

If you’ve never worked with green papaya, it can seem a tad awkward at first but you’ll quickly get the hang of it, especially if you have a mandoline you are comfortable using. I recommend an inexpensive plastic mandoline, which is easy to use and doesn’t take up a lot of cupboard space. Stainless steel mandolines are wonderful tools if you use one frequently and if cost is not a consideration.

An inexpensive mandoline; the small julienne blade is the best for this salad

An average-sized green papaya, from Asia Mart in Santa Rosa

Although you may occasionally find green papaya in local independent supermarkets, Asia Mart (2481 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, 542-3513) and other local Asian stores almost always have it. Most Asian markets also carry Thai mortars and pestles (see the photo at the end of this post), which are inexpensive; this is the ideal tool for making the salad. A large suribachi will also work.

Thai Green Papaya Salad
Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Wine-Compatible Thai Green Papaya Salad, perfect with a dry Sauvignon Blanc

A Thai mortar & pestle is the perfect tool for making Green Papaya Salad