Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pickled Papaya - Full Moon # 2

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.

Pickled Papaya
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)
300gm sugar
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 above is from my 1st batch. One papaya was too soft to be pickled after testing, and I was left with the greener one.

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


  1. Another of my favorite, but not easy to get fresh and green papaya in Singapore :(

  2. when i saw the first pic, i thought you were in carving mood or when to fruit carving school. i even thought it was pickled pumpkin...aigoo delusional me!

    izzit a must have for full come i haven't seen it come together with those boxes of fullmoon set (san-ayamas...yeah i know). oh i luv how u serve it and the plating style! i'm a papaya girl!

  3. Wow, Wendy!! I have never had pickled papaya, it's so beautiful! Only you could make something so beautiful with a one month old baby, you amaze me! =)

  4. Thanks for showing me how to use the mandolin, i got the exactly same one like your but didnt know that i had to slice by using the other side.

  5. Didn't know pickled papaya is served during full moon leh! But pickled ginger ada lah. * Noted * ><

  6. Beautifully decorate pickled papaya :)

  7. Ai yo, my mouth watering when I see through your pictures, lol! Think I might not attempt this since I think I'm probably the only one in my small family that likes pickled anything.  love how you place the slices to make it like a flower, at one look I thought u carved a watermelon or something, lol! 

  8. wow u are one really talented mum. congrats on the new addition to the fmly and enjoy your baby

  9. I agree with Bee Bee...salivating adi just gazing through :p I want to make this one day. Must learn first. Next time got cucu then don't know how to make them for their full moon LOL!

  10. Aiyoo, looks too pretty to eat. You are very talented not only in cooking, but also in plating as well. Well done, Wendy!

  11. neeyeeloh,
    Yeah, unless you know someone plants them

    Pickled papaya is not easy to make, due to sourcing. Maybe that's why you don't see them in the packs.

    No, LOL. These were made during my confinement with the help of my CL. I only posted them today.

    You always need to slice it against the sharp edge :)

    Belly Good,
    Now that you said this, I'm not sure whether this is a Perakian fare, haha. It's always been done in my state.


    Carving ah... never my thing, kekeke.
    This pickled papaya is very addictive for those who likes things pickled.

  12. ykristen,

    Haha, don't worry, still long way to go.

    LOL, my mom said the same. Eating it seemed so sayang. Dunno why that day I was in the mood for some floral arrangement.

    LOL, thanks

    Thank you

  13. wow, very well decorate the pickled papaya into a flower! Lovely. Have you ever tried pickled cabbage? It is as yummy as this pickled papaya too. The procedure is about the same.

  14. Wah, so long didn't eat this liao!

  15. I have not try it for long long time. Thanks for sharing the info & recipe. I love how you decorated the pickled papaya into flower, well done!

  16. mel,
    I've eaten that once, and maybe in the future, I might attempt doing it

    We northerners seem to like this hoh.

    thank you. It's not easy to find this nowadays

  17. thanks for the tips on choosing the papaya. I kena a few times over ripe papayas.

  18. Your pickled papaya make me feel like what to have now! Thanks for the tips on choosing the right papaya. I made before but turn out not cruncy. Will buy the right papaya this time.

  19. Beautiful styling Wendy! There look so pretty. We used to pickle a lot of papaya too during the old days as my grandma had a few trees at the back of her house. It is difficult to find this type of watermelon (the red one) papaya here.

  20. i think i can eat this like your mil eats the pickled ginger..when has got no appetite! can store up to months?

  21. This looks simply gorgeous. The papayas you used are so much bigger, quite different from the one here.

  22. Wow this is gorgeous! I love pickled young ginger and I bet I'd love this as well. The images are mesmerizing hehe.

  23. Small kucing,
    frankly it's hard to purchase the papayas outside, unless you know the seller's source. How long the fruit has been picked, if not, the fruit might soften after pickling as well.

    I hope it turns out well for u this time around

    thanks :)
    Oh, I've never heard of watermelon papaya. Is that how they call it over there?

    Thanks ;p

    anything pickled can be stored :)
    I still have some in the fridge, u want?

    Actually these aren't the biggest around. They're considered medium sized.

    Thankyou, These are crunchy and addictive.
    Hope you get to try these in the future

  24. Cant even imagine making this here.. no green papaya!!!

  25. I've never heard of pickled papaya before! But I love papaya- so this sounds really good! How do you arrange it into that really pretty flower? It looks beautiful! :)

  26. Never heard of serving pickles papayas and oso ginger for full moon leh...? Pork trotters vinegar and turmeric rice, yeah...esp i know the pork trotters is a must for Cantonese. For Hokkiens it's the ang-ku kuih's a must, then red eggs of course's a must for all chinese, right?

  27. wow, how much time do you spent to arrange that nice place of papaya flower? So beautiful. it is worth the effort.

  28. Echo,
    Yeah, I do agree it's not easy to get

    just roll up each slice and stack in a circle

    Angkukuih also got, just that for the party, I made it jelly form.
    Pickled ginger is also found in Ayamas packs la, no meh? But then after all the responses I get from this post, I think pickled papaya is a northern fare. It's practised definately in Perak.

  29. thanks but paiseh, it's okay, you enjoy it slowly.

  30. Thanks for sharing this! I used to always try to pickle my own mangoes but it always turn out too salty, now I know I must only leave the salt on for 5 mins! Such a beautiful picture too :)

  31. lena,
    LOL, no need paiseh la

    the reason for it to be only 5 mins, is that we do not want to draw out too soften the papaya too much. As long as it's pliable, then it's fine

  32. WALAUWEI! The way you arranged the papaya ribbons very pro la! Geng!

  33. wendy.....

    a great recipe....which remind me back to my old grandma cooking. this dish is originally from the nyonya clan...and called as "bok kua suin". u can even try eat it together with the spicy nasi lemak....u will truly love the flavors when it blend with the sambal ikan bilis.


  34. Rainie,
    thanks for the info.
    I call it "Mook Gua Suin" in Cantonese.
    Hmm.. with nasi lemak? Great, I have lots of it left in my fridge

  35. can we use apple cider vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar

  36. anonymous,
    I have heard that some do use apple cider vinegar and please adjust the amount of sugar needed as different vinegar's acidity maybe different.

  37. awww~~ how nice is your presentation for pickled it! love it! love it! u r so creative!

    now i was thinking to make this for my sis-in-law after she gives birth in october....hehe....hope i can get a green papaya....*finger crossed* i also wanna learn to arrange into a flower like u did....

    i guess i am addicted to your blog already....LOL


  38. pinkie,
    first of all, congrats to ur sis in law.
    Just roll up each slice of the pickled papaya like a cone and arrange it in a circle. It'll become a 'bouquet' eventually. Use bigger slices for the base and smaller for the top
    This 'bouquet' is only 5 inches in diameter

  39. thank u wendy...

    okie okie....i will try 2 make it.....haha! it looks like a really big bouquet in the picture!


  40. I've tried making this,but I used mango instead of papaya,and it tasted great too! Hehe


  41. pinkie,
    thanks for the feedback and pickled mango sounds so delicious

  42. Thanks for a great recipe. Just made it again this morning, my third time.

  43. Anonymous,
    Wow, glad to hear this

  44. Hi Wendy, can I reuse the vinegar solution to make another batch aft I finish the first batch?


  45. Philip Kwan,
    I didn't reuse it, as it is actually diluted after marinating the papaya.
    So I am not sure if reusing it will be a good idea.


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