Emerald Of The Equator: Papaya Dishes From Southeast Asia

The beauty of produce is discovering it on menus around the world. When it comes to papaya dishes, southeast Asia has it covered. India alone produces 5.5 million tons annually, close to 42% of the world’s supply. Though the plant is native to central America, southeast Asia has embraced the fruit wholeheartedly. From India and beyond, here are a few dishes that we look to for inspiration.


We love the Thai salad “Som Tam” for its mixture of sweet and salty flavors. Som Tam is best served cold with a variety of fresh vegetables like grape tomatoes, garlic, chilis, and asian long beans. You can use papaya cubes in this dish if you’re so inclined, but we’d recommend shredding the fruit. Keep the unique flavors of the dish alive by topping with a dressing of soy sauce, sugar, and lime.

Northern India

Green papaya curry is a crowd-favorite, pairing the traditional spice of Indian cuisine with the subtle sweetness of papaya. This classic curry calls for green papaya, making it a great dish to keep in your back pocket if you have unripe fruit. Cook this dish like you would a traditional curry, but be sure to liberally add spices like chili powder, turmeric, and turmeric for best results.

  • Pro Tip: If you have access to one, we’d recommend preparing this dish in a pressure cooker. If not, a single pot will get the job done.


Redefine a favorite by including papaya in your next stir fry. Perfectly ripe papayas can do wonders when combined with poblano peppers, ginger, and garlic. We’d also recommend coating your chicken with some citrus beforehand. Orange juice works best!

  • Pro Tip: Can’t get enough of oranges? Check out our article on OJ and Citrus here.

Southern India

The first time you have a lassi on a hot day, you’ll be hooked for life. Though potentially less famous than mango lassis, papaya lassis are equally delicious. The drink is similar to a smoothie, except it’s generally flavored with honey and cardamom. Papayas bring a subtle floral quality that really stands out, but lassis can be prepared with most tropical fruits. We’d recommend serving this drink alongside spicy dishes!


By putting a slight twist on the popular “ginisang upo” dish, you can create a papaya centric meal that is both filling and easy to prepare. It’s essentially a mix of sautéed vegetables and the meat of your choice (we’d recommend something light, like chicken or fish), but the trick to this dish is cooking with green “unripe” papaya. Using green papaya allows the fruit to keep its texture during the cooking process and maintain its light sweetness.