Brisbane is in the humid sub-tropics. Word on the street is that there are over 300 days on sunshine a year up here. Feels about right. Of course, it being the sub-tropics, in the summertime those sunshine-y days are interspersed with raging thunderstorms and torrential rains. Since we moved here, there were the crazy floods during the summer of 2011 that saw the Brisbane River break its banks and wreak all kinds of havoc, then the wild storms that hit us last year smashing windows and roofs and cutting off power to half of Brisbane, and this weekend just past two massive cyclones hit the Queensland Coast pulling houses into the ocean and devastating the mid-coast.
We were lucky here in Brisbane. The cyclones petered out before reaching us. What we did get, though, were the rains. At the moment damp is everywhere. It’s infiltrated the foundations. At first the cool weather was a welcome break from the blazing sunshine. But soon the wet started to take over. S and W went walking on Friday morning just after the cyclones made landfall – W now has a cold and S’s sandals sprouted a fine covering of pale green mold overnight. The water has seeped in under the house and through the floor, soaking the rug. Nothing dries; our towels are perpetually damp, as is the washing. Mold has started growing on the walls. Everything smells… wet.
This is life in the sub-tropics.
Along with the creeping damp, the rain brings everyone’s gardens to life. You can almost see the grass growing. The jacaranda tree sweeping over our front garden now reaches its velvet-green fronds down onto the stairs so that we have to duck everytime we leave the house. Everywhere you look the world seems to be steeped in bright shades of green.
So to keep the sunshine alive in the midst of all this rain, Green Papaya Salad. This is one of my most favourite Thai dishes. It is simple and full of bold flavours. The spicy kick of red chilli, the sweet-sour of the tamarind sauce. It is also wonderfully textured and crunchy, with bright colours to keep things pretty.
An ideal summer salad. Though traditionally made with shrimp paste (and often fish sauce too), I’ve used tamarind paste in this version to keep it vegetarian. If you’re preparing this ahead of time, keep the sauce separate until you’re ready to serve – that way everything will stay nice and crisp. Serve this salad alongside some crispy fried tofu and a bowl of rice, or even some steamed salmon if you roll that way. However you choose, it will be totally delicious.
Green Papaya Salad
1 medium-sized green papaya
1 – 2 carrots
Handful fresh mint leaves
Handful bean shoots
Juice of 1 – 2 limes
1 1/2 tbsps tamarind paste
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp tamari
2 – 3 birds eye chillies
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
Using a mandoline or box grater coarsely shred the green papaya and the carrot. Combine them in a large bowl along with the mint leaves and bean shoots.
Finely chop the chillies and grate the palm sugar.
In a small jar make the dressing by whisking together the chillies and palm sugar along with the lime juice, tamarind paste, sugar, sesame oil, and tamari.
Pour the dressing over the shredded green papaya mixture, add the peanuts, and stir to thoroughly combine. Eat immediately, while everything is still crunchy.
Serves 3 – 4.