Thai Green Papaya Salad, Mackerel Braised with Green Papaya, and Pork and Green Bean Red Curry

Posted By Stephen

The title is a bit of a mouthful, but it needs to be to cover everything that we ate. We have been on a bit of a Thai theme for a few weeks now and it culminated in dinner with friends last night. One of the big points about Thai menus is that they should contain a number of dishes that complement each other and can be served together, so we deliberated over this for quite a while and eventually came up with these three dishes. Curiously enough, we have never cooked with green papaya or with dried prawns before, and each dish contained at least one of these ingredients.

We started with some prawn crackers of course, while we finished off the cooking…


The green papaya salad had as its base a lot of green papaya obviously. Tasting it plain, it doesn’t taste like very much. There is a just-detectable taste of papaya, but it seems closer to a firm but bland cucumber in character. When mixed with other flavours though, it does combine very well and absorb a lot of flavour, transforming it. We shredded ours using the julienne sized setting on our mandolin and it did look rather like noodles when all mixed together.

To make the dressing, we made a paste from dried shrimp (which we boiled quickly first as the instructions on the packet said to cook them), garlic, peanuts and chillis. To this paste we added lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water, mixed it all up well and then dressed the shredded green papaya with it. We added some chopped cherry tomatoes and blanched green beans to it to add some colour and then served it on lettuce leaves. The flavours all worked together to give a well balanced salad with a slightly crunch to it and the exotic edge of involving two ingredients that we haven’t used before.


The braised mackerel was a very interesting dish, and different to most other Thai food we have cooked. The recipe is from Thai Food which we use often and the author points out that Thai people would boil this until the flavours were correct, but that tends to make the fish tough, so he prefers to braise it gentle over a couple of hours. So we braised it.

1 small to medium mackerel whole or filletted (we actually used two medium to large whole mackerel without increasing any other quantities in the recipe and it worked out well)
lime juice
3-5 long red or green chillis (we didn’t have long ones, so just used two birds eye chillis)
10 slices galangal
2 stalks lemongrass
5 thick slices ginger
2 coriander roots, scraped
5 red shallots, peeled
5 garlic cloves, peeled
5 pods fresh tamarind or 4 tablespoons tamarind pulp
1 very small green papaya
2-3 cups stock or water (usually chicken stock in Thai cooking, but I imagine that fish stock would go well in this dish)
4 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons coarsely ground white peppercorns
3 red shallots, finely sliced
1 tablespoon coriander leaves
pinch of ground white pepper

First gut and/or fillet the mackerel if it has not already been done. Wash the fish very well and rub it with the lime juice and salt, then rinse again and pat dry. This removes any loose bits which would cloud the stock.

Bruise the chillies, galangal, lemongrass, ginger, coriander roots, shallots and garlic in a mortar and pestle and set aside. Peel the green papaya and cut into 1-inch square pieces. Bring the stock to the boil in a flameproof casserole, then add tamarind, palm sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and white pepper. When this is dissolved, add all the bruised aromatics and the papaya and simmer for several minutes. Add the mackerel and some water to cover it, then bring it back to the boil, cover it and put it into the oven for two hours at just 80 degrees Centigrade. This will ensure that it does not quite boil and will gently braise the fish. If you don’t have a flameproof casserole, prepare the stock in a saucepan and then pour it into a casserole with the fish when you are ready to put it into the oven.

When it is ready, serve in a bowl or deep platter sprinkled with the shallot and coriander garnish and with some of the cooking liquid poured around it. The white pepper gives it a pungency and the aromatics penetrate the fish very well over the long cooking time, giving it a lot of flavour. The green papaya also soaks up loads of flavour and is a treat just on its own. The broth itself is very well flavoured too and can be eaten as a soup. In fact I am planning to add some noodles to the left over broth and have it for lunch soon. All in all a winning dish. Apologies for the rubbish photograph though…


The pork and green bean dish is one that we have cooked before and we loved it then and loved it this time too. The paste contained 15 dried red chillis, which gave it a fair amount of heat. We didn’t use the dried prawns in the paste last time though and from that post it didn’t look like we substituted with anything either. The prawns were a real pain to crush into a paste; I should have chopped them first instead of just throwing them into the mortar and pestle whole.


The three dishes were all quite different in style and complemented each other well, especially seeing as they had some ingredients in common. We served them with some jasmine rice and some steamed pak choi.

Oct 17th, 2009

3 Comments to 'Thai Green Papaya Salad, Mackerel Braised with Green Papaya, and Pork and Green Bean Red Curry'

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  1. Su-Lin said,

    I don’t cook out that cookbook enough – thanks for the reminder! Love green papaya salad!
    .-= Su-Lin´s last blog ..Polpo =-.

  2. Lizzie said,

    OOoh that mackerel dish looks really interesting. I love som tam, the green papaya salad. The last one I had burnt my face off…
    .-= Lizzie´s last blog ..Le Cassoulet =-.

  3. Nate said,

    Wow, some really powerful flavors here. I love Thai cuisine. This mackerel dish sounds especially yummy.
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..Microwaved Cabbage and Carrot, a Bachelor’s Tale =-.

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