Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kelly - Day 7 - Papaya Salad and Social Situations

I work for a large company, but in a small distinct department of 14 people. They are, in general, nice, normal, professional people with standard eating habits. At work is the one place I keep my mouth shut, or at least quieter than usual, about my food opinions, but over the past year I know they've noticed that I'm "different".

Maybe it's that I'm often eating something with green leaves out of a tupperware, or some strange substance called hummus, or something they've never heard of something called lentils. Or, maybe it's that I don't get excited about chinese food or taco thursdays in the cafeteria.

They're the type of people who wouldn't be rude about it, but ask me sort of suspiciously if I don't eat meat, and then just sort of laugh in confusion if I were to reply that I don't. (Which I never have, because I do sometimes eat meat, just not whatever bulbous gristly greasy stuff is in the sesame chicken dish).

In short, I have not "announced" my raw food activities to my co-workers. In every raw food (or vegan) book or site I've looked at there is a section dealing with social situations, and I think it sucks that if anything this should be a roadblock to healthier eating. I've noticed that people actually seem offended that you don't care to eat the same foods as they do, even though you aren't trying to convince them of anything and what you're eating doesn't affect the situation at all. I'm sure there's been books written on the sociology of it all, but the end result for me is a slight amount of discomfort over food centric office activities.

Happily, today turned out really well. We went out to Sawatdee for an office lunch and I tried something I've never had before - Papaya Salad. I thought papaya was an melon colored fruit sort of like a mango or something, but apparently the salads are made from green papaya which isn't incredibly sweet and can be bought pre-shredded at Asian foods markets. The salad was definitely something I'd want to try at home, so I looked up some recipes and found one that looks pretty close to what I had at the restaurant. Here's the description and recipe from About.com: Thai Food. *Photo from the link, below.


This green papaya salad, known as som tam, is popular in most areas of Thailand, and when you taste it, you'll know why. The slightly tart flavor of the green papaya combines well with the spice of red chili pepper and the saltiness of shrimp paste and fish sauce, plus the sweetness of honey. Green papaya salad is a beautifully unique and flavor-filled dish that will make a great impression. It's also easy to make, low-calorie, and very nutritious. So try this Som tam recipe for dinner tonight!

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

-1 green papaya (tip: buy your papaya at a Chinese grocer, and make sure it is labed "green papaya" )
-1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts (or plain roasted), or glazed cashews (see recipe link below)
-1-2 cups bean sprouts
-1 to 2 tomatoes, cut into long thin strips
-1 red chili, minced (seeds removed if you prefer a milder salad)
-3 spring onions, sliced into long matchstick-like pieces
-1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped if leaves are large handful of fresh coriander


1/2 tsp. shrimp paste (if vegetarian, substitute 1 Tbsp. vegetarian fish sauce, or soy sauce)
-2 Tbsp. good-tasting oil, such as olive
-1 Tbsp. fish sauce (if vegetarian, use vegetarian fish sauce - available at Vietnamese food stores)
-2 Tbsp. lime juice
-1 tsp. honey


1) prepare the dressing by mixing together all dressing ingredients together in a cup. Make sure shrimp paste dissolves fully. Set aside.

2) Peel the green papaya, then slice it in half and remove all the white seeds.

3)Using the largest grater you have, grate the papaya (or you can use a potato peeler to create thin, ribbon-like strips).

4)Place in a large bowl.

5) Add the sliced tomato, spring onion, chili, bean sprouts, and most of the basil.

6) Add the dressing, tossing to combine.

7) Add the peanuts or cashews* (you can either leave them whole, or roughly chop them).

8) Toss again, and do a taste test. If you've used sweet glazed nuts, the salad should be sweet enough (if not, add a little more honey). If not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce.

To serve, scoop salad into individual bowls or onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining basil leaves plus fresh coriander. Serve immediately and ENJOY!

* To make your own glazed cashews (excellent with this salad!), see the: Easy Sweet & Spicy Glazed Cashews Recipe.

Make Ahead Tip: If you wish to make this salad ahead of time, combine all ingredients except the nuts and the dressing. You can then leave it covered in the refrigerator several hours, or overnight. Add the dressing and peanuts at the last minute, then toss and serve.



  1. Yum! I love papaya salad. And I LOVE good ripe papaya, but it's so hard to find.

    And I was a veg for years (having nothing to do with health and everything to do with weight obsession) and random people *always* made it awkward. It makes no sense to me. I don't walk around mentioning that the disgusting, fat-laden stuff that a colleague is having for lunch is probably clogging their arteries. So why care that someone else is having a salad?

    I'm having an "I hate coworkers" day. Can you tell?

  2. Ha, I'm assuming most of your co-workers don't know about your blog either!

    I think for a percentage of people the criticism stems from insecurity, especially when you're thin and they're not, like "oh, look at that skinny girl picking at her salad again".