Bali is bliss. It’s not hard to believe we’ve already been here for a couple weeks, as I’ve clearly sunken into a new, slower rhythm and just allowing the days to unfold at their languid pace. I haven’t been this relaxed in…well, I can’t even remember when to be honest. It feels amazing to not have a schedule to follow, to not have any major deadlines looming, no calls to answer. I’ve had to travel halfway across planet earth to find this solace, but I also don’t mind being surrounded by tropical jungle, dazzling green rice fields, rivers, and volcanoes, and sparkling starry skies.
Bali has a kind of beauty to it, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It is rich, mesmeric, mysterious. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with wafts of burning incense, floral offerings, and the sounds of flowing water. Spirituality and everyday life are intertwined, and god seems to be truly in the details.
The food? As wonderful as it is to eat at restaurants (don’t do much of that in Copenhagen), I’ve actually been cooking a lot. Surprise! We’ve rented a house with a rather makeshift, but functioning kitchen, and the one-burner hot plate and I have become well acquainted during my experiments with all of the local produce. My family and I head out around 7am to the morning market, and for pennies fill our bags with all sorts of unusual fruits and veggies, then head home to play with it all.
The other groovy thing about where we are staying is the front yard full of fruit trees and coconut palms. There are papaya growing – no, bulging – off of their trunks. Fruit larger then my six-month-old baby (and he’s a big boy). The housekeeper picked one for me upon my request and it sat ripening on my counter for a couple days until I knew it was time. Total. Bliss-fest. You couldn’t take me to the fanciest restaurant and see me more excited than eating that silly, homegrown papaya. Truly.
As much as papaya is perfect all on its own, the flavours around me beg to be enjoyed. This was a simple breakfast I tossed together with fresh ingredients I had just picked up at the market: kaffir lime, ginger, and freshly grated coconut (wow, nothing like it!). It is all together sweet, citric, spicy and rich – a delicious combination for starting your day on the right foot, or maybe an afternoon pick-me-up.
Papaya Paradise Party
Papaya are buttery, rich, satisfying, and a delicious taste of the tropics, but are available in most grocery stores throughout the year.
Papayas contain a cornucopia of nutrients, its most unique being papain. Papain is a digestive enzyme that helps digest proteins, similar to the bromelain found in pineapple. If you take digestive supplements, yours will likely contain papain.
Papaya is rich in antioxdants, such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavanoids, folic and pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals copper, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients all add up to major cardiovascular protection, due to their ability to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Papaya’s vitamins, minerals and antioxidants also provide immune support, promote digestive health, and protect against macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis.
Much like bananas, papaya contains a substance called chitinase, which is associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. If you have a latex allergy, you should avoid eating papaya (and banana too).
If you cannot find kaffir limes, regular lime would be fine of course. Kaffir limes tend to be smaller, so if you are using regular lime, just one would likely be enough for the recipe below. And if you can’t get yourself to a Balinese market and have someone grind your coconut for you this morning, no worries, just use shredded desiccated coconut in its place. You can even lightly toast it if your heart desires.
The recipe for this salad is rather loose. I’ve added some rough measurements, but the dressing here depends greatly on the size of your papaya, so just use the ingredients below as a guideline and make the dish to suit your taste. If you like a more citric flavour, go heavy on the limejuice; if you like it spicy, add more ginger, etc. I also drizzled in some local virgin coconut oil, which had the most incredible coconut taste, but this is entirely up to you. Keep in mind that the fat in the coconut and coconut oil will only help in absorbing the carotenes in the papaya.
Bali Bliss Papaya Salad
1 large papaya (mine was approx. 2lbs / 1kg)
½ cup freshly grated or unsweetened desiccated coconut
1-2 organic limes
2-3 tsp. finely minced ginger, to taste
pinch sea salt
2 tsp. honey, to taste (or any liquid sweetener)
1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, melted (optional)
1. Rinse the papaya well. Slice through the entire fruit lengthwise, the scoop out the seeds. Cut off both ends from each half. Stand one of the halves on its flat end and slice off the skin starting at the top and running down to the base. Repeat with other half. Next slice the papaya across into 1-inch sections, and then into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl.
2. Rinse the lime and zest it with a microplane or box grater on the finest setting. Whisk together the ginger, lime zest, lime juice, honey, and salt. Add the coconut oil, if desired. Pour dressing over the papaya just before serving, add desiccated coconut, and fold gently to combine. Enjoy immediately.
I served the salad with some sliced bananas on the side, and garnished with lime halves.
This salad is just a little warm-up here – I thought a slow work up to the more complicated and technique-intensive dishes I plan on making would be best. For now, it’s time to just relax and enjoy the simple and blissful flavours of Bali, unwind, breathe. Find a corner of your home to curl up with this dish, light a stick of incense and drift away on a papaya cloud…I’ll meet you in paradise.