Wednesday, July 6, 2011
One of the favs of full moon!!
Some look forward to pork trotters vinegar. Some look forward to turmeric rice with curry chicken. Some look forward to pickled young ginger. But most look forward to pickled papaya.
I guess pickled papaya is a local full moon fare. I don't think in China this is served. Do papayas grow there? I don't know, but it's like anywhere and everywhere here (besides in the concrete jungle of course). Throw some seeds onto the ground and few months later, you can pick papayas off the tree. They're one of the cheapest fruits around.
*After reading responses on this post, I'm suspecting this is a northern practise. As my readers from KL and the South has never seen this for Full Moon celebrations.
When I was a kid, pickled papaya were sold in sundry shops. Cut in long slanting pieces, kept in large glass jars sold for only 5sen per piece (1984 price). My grandaunt will sometimes buy me a piece and I'd love to have this more than candy if she ever goes to the sundry shop. Nowadays, those large jar pickled papaya do not taste as yummy as before. Taste more like salted papaya than pickled papaya.
Making this is all about timing. Not the preparation timing, but the picking to processing timing.
To get a nice firm reddish papaya, skills are needed. Visual skills. Touching skills. Intuition. All these are needed in order to pick a nice firm papaya. The papaya should not have green flesh (some is ok, but not all green), but flesh that is turning red. The fruit should still be very very firm and crunchy. Slightly soft papaya is 100% disastrous for pickling. The papaya should be processed as soon as possible after being picked. It is best to not leave it for more than 48 hours at room temperature. If not processed within 12 hours after picking, keep the fruit in the fridge to prevent it from ripening.
During Lyanne's full moon, some one picked a huge papaya for us, but left it at a friend's overnight. When we finally got it, we processed it immediately. The fruit was still firm when we sliced it, but after pickling, it turned soft. Luckily we had another batch which was made from the freshest papaya, and it was super crunchy. So, buy or pick your papayas only when you intend to pickle it. Do not get your fruit too early.
The process is almost the same as pickling young ginger, and there are minor differences.
Recipe source: Wendyywy in collaboration with my confinement lady
Yields : About 5 cups of pickled papaya
1kg firm papaya (clean weight w/o skin and seeds)
2 Tbsp salt
300gm rice wine vinegar (if sub with imitation vinegar[cuka buatan], use 70-80% artificial vinegar 20-30% water)
10 bird's eye chilli
1. Boil vinegar and sugar. Stir so that sugar will not set to bottom. Let it cool down completely before use.
2. Peel papaya. Half the fruit, remove seeds and rinse the fruit.
3. Cut into smaller pieces and slice with a mandolin.
4. Put salt over sliced papayas and rub salt all over papaya slices. Make sure the slices do not stick together and are properly rubbed with salt.
5. Leave salted papaya for 5 minutes (not too long!!), the papaya is ready to be rinsed when it looks pliable.
6. Rinse salted papaya twice. Shake off excess water. No need to squeeze.
7. Put papaya slices into a non reactive vessel (glass, stainless steel, ceramic)
8. Snip bird's eye chilli in and pour cooled vinegar syrup over.
9. With clean utensils, stir papaya slices to make sure the payaya is well submerged and coated with the syrup.
10. Let the papayas sit for a few hours, then test. If too sour, add more sugar, if not sour enough, add more vinegar.
11.Let the papayas pickle for at least 2 days before serving. If container is air tight, there is no need for refrigeration. If the container is not air tight, it is best to kept chilled in the fridge to prevent creepy crawlies.
In the pictures, you saw 2 papayas. But in the end, only one papaya is used as the redder one is too ripe to be used. Although a bit too firm to be eaten, it is too soft to be pickled. If the papaya can be dented with a finger (with pressure, press!!!!!!!) then the papaya is too soft. It may not look soft now, but after pickling, you will regret it. If you're not sure about your papaya, it's best to separate the pickles according to fruit. Just in case one fruit turns soft after pickling, it won't spoil the whole batch. It's yucky to eat soft pickled papayas. Sometimes, red papayas(red flesh, green skin) do not mean that they are too ripe to be used. Test the inside of the papaya(near the seeds) with the pressure test. Some papayas may look red, but are still firm and crunchy.
The picture below is from my 2nd batch, with 2 orangey and one really green papaya. The result is very pretty. A good mix of light green and orangey papaya ribbons