Vietnamese-style Green Papaya Salad

Among many dishes of Vietnamese cuisine, green papaya salad stands out as a unique dish, but making making it also requires your patience.

Known locally as “Gỏi Đu Đủ,” the green papaya salad is a familiar dish seen at street food stalls, in a daily meal or during family gatherings across Vietnam. It represents the essence of Vietnamese cuisine – fresh ingredients, balanced flavors, and vibrant colors. The crisp papaya and carrots with the tangy, spicy, and sweet dressing makes it a refreshing appetizer or a light meal on its own.

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

If you want to explore Vietnamese cuisine, green papaya salad is a great starting point. It is a salad with simple preparation, but it is full of flavors. Even you are unfamiliar with Southeast Asian cuisine, papaya salad will be comforting to enjoy while still providing an enjoyable experience. Let’s discover how to prepare it.

Preparing Ingredients

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
Ingredients: carrot, green papaya (but my papa was slightly ripe so it was… light yellow), chicken breas/shrimp/pork, and fish sauce.

Just like preparing other types of salads, we need to use fresh and high-quality ingredients to achieve the best flavor and texture for Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad. Each ingredient is equally important in creating a harmonious dish that excites with every bite. Start by preparing the ingredients:

Main Ingredients:

  • Green Papaya: The star of the show. Although it’s not popular outside of the Southeast Asian region, you can buy green papaya in Asian food stores or supermarkets, and sometimes even in local supermarkets. I live in Belgium and found some at Coruyt supermarket, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Belgium. It is not the same type of papaya used for Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad and was a bit riper for the salad. You should choose a firm papaya with bright green skin, which is way better for making the salad. The inside of the papaya should have a pale white or slightly green color, ensuring its crunchiness. If you prefer a softer, sweeter papaya salad, opt for a slightly ripe papaya like the one I used.
  • Carrots: Add a touch of sweetness and an additional layer of crunch. Opt for fresh, crisp carrots.
  • Cucumber: Adds green color to the dish.
  • Fresh Herbs: Primarily Thai basil and cilantro. These herbs bring an aromatic and fresh lift to the salad. Ensure they are freshly picked and washed.
  • Proteins (optional): You can add dried shrimp for a burst of umami, boiled shrimp, boiled pork, or shredded boiled chicken breast for a savory touch. For vegetarians, pressed and fried tofu slices make a great alternative.

Dressing Ingredients:

All these ingredients below are for making a flavorful fish sauce dressing to dress the salad. It’s quite similar to many other Vietnamese-style salads, such as Pig Ear Salad.

  • Lime or Lemon Juice: The tangy backbone of the dressing. I recommend using freshly squeezed juice instead of the bottled versions.
  • Fish Sauce: This special Vietnamese sauce adds depth and saltiness to the dish. For vegetarians, soy sauce or tamari could be suitable substitutes, though the flavor profile will change slightly.
  • Sugar: To balance out the tanginess. The sweet flavor harmonizes the other flavors. You can adjust the sweetness based on your preference.
  • Garlic: A couple of finely minced cloves will bring an aromatic kick. If you’re not a fan of raw garlic, reduce the amount or skip it.
  • Fresh Red Chili or Chili Paste: Depending on your heat tolerance, you can increase or decrease chopped fresh chilies in the dressing sauce. This adds a spicy kick and reduce the fishiness of the shrimp and fish sauce.

Now that we’ve assembled our ingredients, the next step is to prep and bring them all together.

Tools and Equipment:

Creating a vibrant Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad is not just about the ingredients. Having the right tools and equipment can make the process smoother and enhance the final appearance and texture of the dish. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  1. Mandoline Slicer or a Sharp Knife: The key to this salad is thinly sliced papaya and carrots. A mandoline slicer can provide consistent thin strips, but if you’re skillful with a knife, that works too. If you have an Asian Grater & Peeler, it is the best option for grating carrots and green papaya.
  2. Mortar and Pestle: It is used to crush the garlic and chilies, releasing their oils and flavors to blend into the dressing. If you don’t have one, a small blender or food processor can be used as a substitute, but the flavors achieved with the mortar and pestle are truly unparalleled.
  3. Mixing Bowl: Choose a large enough bowl that allows you to mix the ingredients without spilling. Glass or ceramic bowls are preferred, as they don’t retain flavors and are easy to clean.

Making Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Prepare Vegetables and Meat:

Now that we have our tools and ingredients ready, it’s time to dive into the prep work:

  • Julienning Green Papaya: Start by peeling the outer green skin. Once peeled, carefully shred the papaya into thin julienne strips with your mandoline slicer or knife. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water with a pinch of salt. This helps retain the crispness and reduces bitterness. Then, rinse and squeeze the papaya 2-3 times with salty water. Drain before using.
How to cut green papaya
  • Carrots: Carrots: Peel the outer skin of the carrots and use the mandoline slicer or knife to shred them into thin strips similar to the papaya. Like with the green papaya, wash and squeeze them 2-3 times with salty water to enhance their crispness.
Carrot for Vietnamese green papaya salad
  • Cucumber: Use a multifunction peeler or a wave cutter to cut the cucumber into pieces.
  • Fresh Herbs: Wash the Thai basil, green onion, and cilantro under cold water. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Pluck the leaves from the stems and coarsely chop them.
  • Chicken/pork/shrimp: Boil or bake chicken breast /pork/shrimp while you grate the green papaya and carrots.

Dressing Preparation:

The heart of the Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad is its dressing – a tantalizing blend of sweet, salty, spicy, and sour elements in fish sauce. If possible, crushed fish sauce is more delicious; however, fish sauce with minced garlic and chilies is still good (I chose this option because my mortar had broken). Here’s how to prepare the dressing if you prefer the crushed version:

  • Starting with the Aromatics: Use the mortar and pestle to crush the garlic and chili with sugar to release their flavors. This process is crucial as it helps extract the essence of these ingredients. Once crushed, add them to your dressing mix.
  • Combining the Basics: Add warm water, then fish sauce. The ratio of fish sauce for making the salad is 1 part water to 2 parts fish sauce. Next, squeeze lime/lemon juice into the sauce and stir evenly to combine.
  • Adjusting to Taste: Depending on your preference, you might want it sweeter, tangier, or spicier. Adjust the quantities of sugar, lime juice, or chili accordingly. If it becomes too salty, add more lime juice or a touch of water to dilute.

Assembly

It’s time to bring everything together:

  • Mixing the Base: In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded green papaya, carrots, and chicken/shrimp together. Gently toss them to ensure they’re well-mixed.
  • Adding the Dressing: Pour the prepared dressing over the mixture. Using your hands or salad utensils, gently mix everything, ensuring every strand is coated with the dressing. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Incorporating Fresh Herbs: Add the Thai basil and chopped cilantro (if using). Toss again gently to combine.
  • Garnishing: Finish off with a sprinkle of crushed roasted peanuts (if using) for extra crunch and deeper flavor. You can also add additional chopped herbs on top for a pop of color and aroma.
Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Serve immediately for the best texture and freshness.

Serving Suggestions

When you’ve taken the time to craft such a refreshing and intricate salad, presentation and pairing can elevate the dining experience.

Accompaniments

It pairs wonderfully with:

Variations

Every region, family, and chef might have their own twist on this classic. Here are some variations to consider:

  • Regional Differences: In Central Vietnam, they might add thinly sliced banana flowers for a different texture. In Thai green papaya salad, asparagus beans and cherry tomatoes are used together with papaya and carrot. All the vegetables will be pounded in the mortar with the fish sauce.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Tweaks: If you are not familiar with fish sauce, you can replace it with soy sauce or a vegan fish sauce alternative. Opt for tofu or tempeh as a protein addition.
  • Other Proteins: Some might add boiled, shredded chicken or even thinly sliced beef jerky for a chewier texture. Boiled beef, grilled beef or pork, also crab meat, grilled fish, etc., are also possible.

Health Benefits of Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Gỏi Đu Đủ is not just a treat for your taste buds but also a boon for your health:

  • Green Papaya: Rich in papain, an enzyme that aids digestion. It’s also a good source of Vitamin C and E.
  • Carrots: Known for being rich in beta-carotene, which is good for eyesight.
  • Herbs: Fresh herbs are not just flavor agents. Mint aids digestion, and cilantro is known for its detoxifying properties.
  • Dressing Components: Garlic has numerous health benefits, including immune-boosting properties, while chilies can help in boosting metabolism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you’re preparing it for a quiet dinner at home or a festive gathering, it’s sure to be a hit. Enjoy your homemade Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad and let it transport you to the heart of Southeast Asia!

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Among a plenty of dishes of Vietnamese culinary traditions, the green papaya salad stands out as a as a unique dish but also requires your patience.

Ingredients

Vegetables and Meat

  • 1 papaya, around 500g (17 oz)
  • 2 medium carrots, around 300g (10 oz)
  • 1 cucumber, around 200g (7 oz)
  • 150-200g (6-8 oz) proteins (boiled chicken, pork, shrimp, etc.)

Dressing

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime/lemon juice

Instructions

Step 1. Prepare Vegetables and Meat

  • Cutting Green Papaya: Start by peeling the outer green skin. Once peeled, carefully shred the papaya into thin julienne strips with your multifunction peeler/grater or knife. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water with a pinch of salt.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad Shred with a multifunction peeler... green papaya salad or with a knife.
  • Rinse and squeeze papaya 2-3 times with salty water. Drain before using.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
  • Carrots: Peel the outer skin of the carrots and use the mandoline slicer or knife to shred them into thin strips similar to the papaya. Similar to green papaya, also wash and squeeze them 2-3 times with salty water to enhance the crispness.green papaya salad
  • Cucumber: Use a multifunction peeler/wave cutter to cut cucumber into pieces.cut cucumber for salads
  • Chicken/pork/shrimp: Soak dry shrimp in water in 15 minutes. Boil or bake chicken breast /pork while you grate green papaya and carrots.boil frozen shrimp
  • Fresh Herbs: Wash the basil and cilantro under cold water. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Pluck the leaves from the stems. Chop them coarsely.

Step 2. Dressing Preparation

If possible, fish sauce with crushed garlic is more delicious; if not, fish sauce with minced garlic and chillies is still good. Here's how to prepare the dressing if you prefer crushed version:

  • Starting with the Aromatics: Using the mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and chili with sugar to release their flavors.
  • Combining the Basics: Add warm water, then fish sauce. The ratio of fish sauce for making salad is 1 water:2 fish sauce. Then, squeeze lime/lemon juice into the sauce and stir evenly to combine.
  • Adjusting to Taste: Depending on your preference, you might want it sweeter, tangier, or spicier. Adjust the quantities of sugar, lime juice, or chili accordingly. If it becomes too salty, add more lime juice or a touch of water to dilute. Finally, you'll have all these ingredients on the table, ready for assembling.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Step 3. Assembly

  • Mixing the Base: In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded green papaya, carrots and chicken/shirmp together. Toss them gently, ensuring they’re well-mixed.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
  • Adding the Dressing: Pour the prepared dressing over the mix. Using your hands or salad utensils, gently mix everything, ensuring every strand is coated with the dressing. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes so the flavors meld.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
  • Incorporating Fresh Herbs: Add the Thai basil and chopped cilantro (if any). Toss again gently to combine.
  • Garnishing: Finish off with a sprinkle of crushed roasted peanuts (if any) for an extra crunch and a deeper flavor. You can also add additional chopped herbs on top for a pop of color and aroma.Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 240

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