multiculturally eating: green papaya coconut curry soup
when you've traveled as extensively as i have, you tend to amass a vast library of go-to food resources. from unleavened pancakes in morocco, to carne stuffed empanadas in argentina, my little palate could and probably should have its own passport. i can't even begin to properly express how exciting, how satisfying it is (to me) to sample new flavors, in new places, in new ways. and it's something that i miss terribly. because someone (not gonna name names) decided to trade her gypsy ways for so-called stability... hmph!
which means that any and all adventure my palate experiences these days, is found in my kitchen. and that's cool. because it means that i get to play with a wide range of spices, techniques, and my (not-so) favorite, textures. which brings us to what happened in my kitchen today: green papaya coconut curry soup.
inspired by thai and filipino dishes that i've fallen head over heels for, i've created this meal that is as simple as it is delicious. and let me not forget to mention the real reason - we've a plethora of green papaya popping off in the garden right about now... and since there's only so much green papaya salad one can happily consume in a short period and continue to feel good about their choices, i'm quite stoked at how this all came together. and how curry and coconut served as the perfect backdrop for a normally bland green papaya. which, in case you were wondering, found its flavor by way of a coconut oil sear. yes. seared. but first peeled, seeded and chopped, then fried to a crispy golden perfection.
now what i need y'all to know is that once the searing decision was made, i had to accept that we were way past salad, but didn't know what more i'd do with these here papayas. so i did like most cooks - scoured the internets for recipes, and found a whole lotta nothing that i wanted to follow to a t. plus, as i watched my papaya chunks turn from a non-descript beige, to a vibrant canteloupey color during that aforementioned sear, my mouth began watering for a filipino soup made by one of my many 'moms' - a delicious combination of squash and beans in a coconut milk base. and i wanted something like that. but different.
so i set out to make her soup, substituting papaya for squash, and making it not a soup. more like a jamaican-style thicker curry. yeah. totally multicultural up in here... in theory. but. what was happened was when i added coconut milk to the butter and curry roux, it seriously started begging for more liquid. a different kind of liquid. a thinner liquid, one might say. so, i added chicken stock, which turned it into a full-blown soup, while adding really good flavor. once the soup reached boiling, i reduced heat to a simmer. added seared papaya chunks, sliced onions, minced garlic, and a handful of fresh green beans in the last three minutes of simmering, along with a pinch of cayenne. i served it over rice and garnished it with fresh thai basil and mint from the garden.
creamy... sweet... savory... a hint of spice... and freaking delicious. enjoy!
notes: i'll definitely go with the jamaican-style curry next time. less milk. less stock. i'll also add a bit more heat, as the amount of cayenne i added was damned near negligible. lastly, i chose basmati rice, for it was all i had... jasmine would have been a much better match. next time, gadget...
make it vegan/vegetarian: use veggie stock | butter substitute