We have a lovely, semi-hidden gem in the Tampa Bay area, the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple. Any given Sunday you can find a few hundred folks lounging at picnic tables under their sprawling tree canopy on the Hillsborough River. The setting is idyllic, and I’d go just for that, but me (nor the other 200 folks) are there for nature’s beauty, we’re there for the food. From about 10am until the food runs out (sometimes not longer after noon) you can sample myriad Thai delights: noodle bowls, curries, fresh spring rolls, coconut milk custards, fried plantains and taro, a whole host of brightly-colored, bizarre-looking desserts, and, finally, my very favorite thing, papaya salad. A traditional thai delight, papaya salad is typically made with shredded green papaya and a sweet-hot dressing deeply routed in fish sauce. Lucky for me the temple makes a vegetarian version, but, it’s really not the same without the fish sauce.
A quick google search landed me on Craftsy (which, if you haven’t taken a class there yet, I can’t recommend highly enough, I would have paid twice what I did for the knife skills course if I’d known how excellent it was before I took it), where their blog provides a vegetarian version of pad thai, complete with a nice-sounding vegetarian fish sauce. I decided to give it a try. It was delicious. And that is how we ended up here.
- 4 cups thinly shredded green papaya flesh
- 2 scallions, sliced thin
- ¼ cup peanuts, crushed
- ½ cup chopped, fresh herbs (any combo of mint, cilantro, and thai basil is great)
- 2 T vegetarian fish sauce
- 2 T agave
- juice of two large limes
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- red chili sauce/paste (to taste, I use about ½ t)
- Place shredded papaya and green onion in a large bowl.
- Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk to combine (taste and adjust heat).
- Toss papaya mixture well in the dressing.
- Divide into two bowls and top with chopped peanuts and fresh herbs.
- Enjoy with chopsticks (it helps you get way more in your mouth at once!)