By Peyton Roberts
In my very first Fresh Factor post, I wrote a little about what sparked my interest in trying Guam’s local produce in the first place. In fact, I can sum it all up in one word… Thailand!
Last August I traveled to Thailand with my friend Jen. At one point we found ourselves taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai. The recipes were phenomenal, but the life-changing part for me was during our outing to the local market. Jen kept saying over and over, eggplant after mango, “Hey, we have that on Guam!”
Indeed, many of the plants that grow well in Thailand grow well in Guam’s tropical climate as well. Which means… fresh and delicious Thai food is right here at our fingertips!
Exhibit A. I stopped at my favorite produce stand the other day (the one on Rt. 1 in Piti). I was looking for a green papaya to make my favorite Chiang Mai dish, Thai Papaya Salad. Upon pulling up to the stand, I was disappointed to see no papayas for sale on the table. The blank stare on my face prompted the following discussion:
“Are you looking for something?” Dona, the produce stand owner asked.
“I am looking for a papaya. Do you have any?” I asked.
“No, we don’t have any today. I’m sorry,” Dona said.
“Bummer, I was going to make papaya salad.” I said.
“We have them, but they aren’t ripe yet,” said a man behind the counter.
“That’s perfect! I need a green papaya!” I said, with renewed hope.
“Let me go pick one for you,” said the man behind the counter.
The man walked fifty feet to the right of the produce stand, reached up to grab a papaya, and sold it to me for $2. I took the papaya home and pounded it together with local long beans, tomatoes, and boonie peppers into a Guamified version of my favorite Thai salad. With every bite I marvelled that the tangy papaya I was eating was literally minutes off the tree and grown less than five miles from my house.
Below I share with you the papaya salad recipe from our cooking class, adapted based on what I’ve been able to find easily on Guam. The recipe is a little more labor intensive than most (there is a lot of pounding!), but the end result is a unique, tangy flavor that’s more intense than most and comes together in about 15 minutes. Give it a try, and careful with those boonie peppers.
Boonie Thai Papaya Salad
Modified from The Chilli Club Cooking Academy
4 cloves peeled garlic
3-7 boonie peppers (depending on your spiciness preference)
2-3 pinches salt
1 bunch long green beans (approx ¾ lb.), cut into 1” pieces
1 large green papaya, grated
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tsp. palm sugar (found at Agat Kimchee Market)
¼ cup whole roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
juice of one lime
Prep work: Grate the papaya by peeling it, then use a large chef’s knife to hack into the papaya repeatedly. Use the knife to peel the papaya off in strips. Put papaya strips in a large and sturdy bowl, making sure no seeds sneak their way in.
Method: Make a paste with the boonie peppers, garlic, and salt by pounding in a mortar. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place ingredients into a plastic bag and crush with a mallet or other hammer-like object (I’ve used the bottom of a glass cup before). The garlic and peppers should be extremely well mashed together. In the same way, pound the long beans until they are broken. Add the beans and paste to the bowl with the papaya. Pound together for half a minute. Add the tomato halves, palm sugar and soy sauce and continue pounding for another minute so everything is properly beat up and well mixed. Stir in chopped peanuts and lime juice. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. Serves 4.
This is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day once the flavors have meshed together. Enjoy!
Peyton Roberts is a military spouse who moved to Guam from the States in July 2010. She started her blog, Peyt’s Island, as a way to keep friends and family informed about what island life is like. Over time, that space transformed into a forum for writing about her experiences discovering Guam’s beauty, and more recently its flavors. Peyton loves all Guam adventures, whether land or sea, and has a passion for sharing ideas about incorporating local produce into regular family cooking. At the Fresh Factor, Peyton shares recipes, interviews, and information about all things fresh on Guam.