To those of us who love playing with food, when life gives us lemons we make pies, cakes, and yes, lemonade. And when we pick a papaya that looks like a prizewinner to make the world’s best batida de lechosa, and it turns out to be a disappointment, well, we make tofu and papaya salad.
Papaya is one of my favorite fruits, I cannot fathom why I had never used it in a savory dish, after all, I love fruits. I put them in savory dishes all the time; sometimes I even use them for dessert! So far I created savory dishes with mango, pineapple, and watermelon (this is just an example, there’s a lot more). Papayas get eaten practically out of the supermarket bag, but this one wasn’t good for it and I wasn’t going to throw it away.
I think this is the fifth time I have made and served this recipe since I came up with it a couple of months ago. I made once with chicken in lieu of tofu and it was equally good (I include the option in the recipe), but this is my favorite combination. The secret is in the dressing, an Asian inspired sweet and spicy secret.
Have I told you I love spicy food?
This papaya and tofu salad is a play in contrasts: crispy, cold, raw vegetables against warm, garlicky tofu, the salty soy sauce combined with brown sugar, and the kick provided by a sprinkle of chili flakes.
So there you have it, nothing wasted, and now I scan the supermarket basket for papayas that would disappoint other shoppers. I consider this a social service. No need to thank me.
- 1/4 cup of low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 lb [0.48 kg] of firm tofu , or 1 lb [0.48 kg] of chicken breast
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
- 2 tablespoons of frying oil
- 2 cups of papaya , cubed (see notes)
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce , shredded
- 2 large carrots , shaved
Mix soy sauce, water, sugar and sesame seed. Add chili flakes to taste. Let it rest for an hour.
Dice tofu or chicken. Pat dry with a paper towel and season with the garlic salt.
Heat oil over high heat in a pan and fry chicken or tofu until it turns golden brown. Be careful with hot splatters.
Remove from the heat and reserve.
Mix papaya, carrot, lettuce and tofu (or chicken) and toss.
Add dressing when it's time to serve.
You need firm but ripe (or almost ripe) papayas for this recipe, you definitely don't want the mushy ones for this.