It can be safe to say that life in Thailand would be significantly different if there was no Papaya. The reason for this will be explained further down, but Papaya is one of the staple fruits in the Thai diet.
Papaya is grown throughout the tropical world, not only in South East Asia, it is also produced in South America and South Africa, although it is South East Asia which is the largest exporter.
Green Papaya is a large fruit, and can grow up to 12 inches in length, and 3-4 inches in circumference. It is dark green, with lighter green ribs, and is firm when squeezed. Alone, Papaya is fairly tasteless, it is when it is used as the filler food for a range of Thai dishes that it’s taste becomes known.
Hands down the most well known dish in Thailand which utilises Papaya is Som Tum, Spicy Papaya Salad. Almost every Thai person will eat Som Tum several times a week, and always as a standalone meal or as a snack, very popular at lunchtimes. Som Tum is often too flavoursome for Western taste, mainly due to the fact it is made with Pla Ra (fermented fish sauce), which is an acquired taste to say the least.
Papaya is also often added to simple dishes as a vegetable, for example Pad Moo Papaya, which is quite simply fried pork with Papaya, a simple yet tasty dish. In fact, Papaya finds its way into many salads, most of which would not list Papaya upon the list of ingredients for the standard recipe. Papaya is a versatile fruit, due to its unobtrusive taste, it can be added to a range of dishes to add texture and its own particular flavour, and add bulk to make a dish more filling.