This is an easy 3-ingredient papaya salad you can throw together in a few minutes. There’s t the cooking required, just easy prep so you can get to snacking.
Green papaya and beef jerky salad is a light appetizer, a great choice for a snack or appetizer. My mom says she used to buy this from food carts in Vietnam. Students would swarm the food carts during lunch break. It was popular because of its affordability and great taste, even if students didn’t get as much beef jerky as shown above.
You can find this appetizer at some Vietnamese restaurants, but it’s easy enough to make at home. I really enjoy this version and the vegetarian version of this salad too.
Đu Đủ By Any Other Name…
If you don’t speak Vietnamese it might be a strange if someone asks you to eat some đu đủ. It’s just papaya though! My family has a joke with the same idea: whenever they get unappetizing papaya it’s inevitably dubbed đi đỉ, which is exactly what you thought đu đủ was.
How To Buy Green Papaya
Green papaya is the unripened version of the orange papaya you see often in American markets. Buying green papaya is easy. A fresh one is green, with smooth skin and very firm to the touch. Older papayas won’t be as shiny, and the flesh will be kind of soft, which we don’t want.
Green papaya does not ripen if you let it sit around. It’s picked green and meant to be eaten as is so if you wait too long it just goes downhill.
I found this papaya at a local Indian market for $1.50 per pound, which is about the same price as ripe papaya. Sometimes you can find it for as low as $0.80 per pound. During the off-season, green papaya’s flavor is about 80% there for double the cost.
You can find this in Southeast Asian markets. Vietnamese is a good bet, but Thai and Lao folks commonly eat raw green papaya like this so you can try at those markets too.
Above is the inside of a green papaya with the little seeds removed. My mom recently gave me a new slicer that she and a bunch of her aunties have been raving about. The one shown in the above picture is the Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer. My mom has been using this same one for over 20 years, all the way back since her restaurant days and its still sharper than the Swissmar slicer I’ve been using.
It cuts through green papaya like butter. It’s so sharp, in fact that a few of my aunties gave up mandoline slicers from fear of cutting themselves. This is nonsense, probably because they don’t know you can just throw on some cut-resistant gloves and you’re golden. The ones I’m wearing above are Epica brand and they worked great, providing a slight grip too. You can use both the gloves and the cutting guard if you really want, but there’s no reason to avoid mandoline slicers altogether!
Green Papaya Salad In Other Countries
This Vietnamese salad is thought to have originated in Laos, but is also popular in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Cambodia. Many variations of this dish exist, even subbing out the papaya for other fruits including banana flower, pomelo, cucumber, and green mango.
There’s a popular Vietnamese version of the green mango salad with shrimp too (recipe coming soon!).
Where’s The Beef…(Jerky)?
If you live near a Vietnamese community, the easiest place to find the jerky is in Vietnamese supermarkets. Some take-out only food places near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon carry this too. This is often eaten as beer snacks, or to nhau.
Another place you can find this is in those Vietnamese-Chinese stores that sell preserved foods. The store setups look similar to American taffy stores, with large barrels side-by-side, covering the entire floor. You want the dry and red-ish looking one. There’s a sticky version, and a curry version of the beef jerky, which are good too, but not what you want for this salad.
If you don’t have Viet markets nearby you can get the kind of beef jerky Costco carries too. The flavor is good, but the sheets of jerky are pretty thick, so you can cut the strips thinner to compensate. By comparison, the Vietnamese/Chinese version is sold pre-cut, and has a slightly sweeter taste.
- 1 green papaya (~2 pounds, shredded)
- ⅓ pound beef jerky
- thai basil, cut into strips
- ½ cup regular sodium Kikkoman soy sauce
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- sriracha, chili paste, or sliced bird's eye chiles (optional)
- Peel, de-seed, and shred the papaya.
- Toss shredded papaya with basil.
- Top with beef jerky strips and dressing, to taste.