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Raw paw power

Unripe, green papaya is great for digestion and can be used creatively in the kitchen. Sanjeev Kapoor shares his kitchen experiments...

india Updated: Mar 07, 2009, 16:18 IST
Sanjeev Kapoor
Sanjeev Kapoor
Hindustan Times

Just the other day, I don’t know what thought struck me that I ordered four raw papayas from the sabziwala. And here was Alyona, in two minds: should she return them, or get creative and cook something nice with them. What do you think was the dominating thought?

Getting creative
We got creative and started rattling off the names of the recipes we did not want to make: the chutneys, the launj, the paranthas and Thai Green Salad. Even if we used it as a tenderiser (raw papaya has papain, a protein digesting enzyme) in a marinade for mutton, we would still be left with three and seven eighths of raw papaya!

We took two papayas, wrapped them up in newspaper, and put them away to ripen into the juicy orange fruit. The remaining was put on the chopping board.

Our long time cook advised us to wrap them all up and allow them to ripen. She also told us how her mother used raw papaya pulp to treat bad cuts and rashes.

As I researched further, I found that papaya’s medicinal virtues have been recognised since ancient times. The most important is the presence of the papain in the milky juice or latex, which is carried in all the channels of the plant.

According to scientific research, papain is similar to pepsin in the digestive prowess…so powerful that it can digest 200 times its own weight in protein.

Using a bit of raw papaya as meat tenderiser explains the papain’s power. One can now understand how papain can help be part of the formula for drugs made for digestive ailments. Interestingly, as papaya ripens its vitamin C goes up and papain content reduces.

Options galore
We can make a Konkani style vegetable using raw papaya in a coconut gravy. Use jaggery for sweetness and imli for the sourness. In fact, the amount of dried red chillies used decides the heat factor. Traditionally coconut oil is used for tempering but use your choice of oil for this.

You could even use the raw papaya as a base for a vegetable soup. Take onion, raw papaya, carrots, boil and puree them. Add finely minced ginger, salt and pepper seasoning and just before serving, add a dollop of butter.

Carrots also seem to have an affinity with raw papaya. So grate some nice red ones and mix with grated raw papaya. Mix in finely shredded green chillies and some crushed peanuts. Temper with mustard seeds and toss well. Allow to rest for 15 minutes or so, adding lemon juice and salt just before serving. Here you have a crunchy salad with daal and rice.

Yeh hai right choice
For making Papaya Chi Wadi, heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan, add one chopped onion and sauté till light brown. Add a little ginger-garlic-green chilli paste and sauté. Add half teaspoon each red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and sauté for a minute. Stir well and add two cups grated raw papaya and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle one teaspoon lemon juice stir, adding half cup besan. Stir well.

Cover with a lid and cook for five to seven minutes stirring occasionally. Mix in half cup chopped coriander leaves. Remove pan from heat, transfer mixture into a plate. When it cools divide into 16 equal portions. Roll into balls and flatten slightly.

Heat sufficient oil in a kadai and deep fry papaya wadis till crisp and golden. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with chaat masala and serve hot with dhania chutney.

(The writer is a master chef, author and television host. Email at

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