Sunday, February 21, 2010

RECIPE - Pork Ribs with Green Papaya

One of the frustrations of living in a non-tropical country is that when tropical fruit is available, it is often immature and under-ripe (not to mention expensive). I remember many occasions in Vancouver when I would see a selection of mangoes, or papayas, or pineapples in my supermarket that were green and hard, when they should have been soft, yellow or pink, and juicy. My love of these fruits when they are in a perfect state of ripeness made me nostalgic for Hawaiian pineapples, Brazilian papayas or Mexican mangoes, and made me eschew these poor specimens which had had to endure shipment to the cold of a Canadian January.

However, even in the tropics, these fruits are sometimes eaten in their immature state. Those complexly-spiced Indian pickles and chutneys are made with green mangoes, not ripe ones. And one of my very favorite Thai delicacies, som tam salad, is made from shredded green papayas. Brazil also makes use of green fruits, and this marvelous recipe from Brazil's state of Minas Gerais, Pork Ribs with Green Papaya (Costelinha com Mamão Verde) is an excellent example.

So, when you are faced with a pile of green papayas at your local Safeway, IGA, Tesco or Carrefour, don't bemoan their unripe state - plan to use them to create this uncomplicated but delectable dish from Brazil.
RECIPE - Pork Ribs with Green Papaya

2 medium to large green papayas - about 2 lbs (1 kg.)
1/4 tsp. baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp. cachaça (tequila can be substituted)
4 lbs. baby pork ribs (2 kgs), separated if purchased as racks
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onion (green part only)
1 bay leaf
Peel the papayas with a potato peeler, cut in half, remove the white seeds, then cut the flesh into 1/2 inch (1 cm.) cubes. Put the papaya in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and stir in the baking soda to dissolve. Reserve.

Bring 2 cups water to the boil in large saucepan. Add the lime juice and cachaça, then add the pork ribs. Immediately remove from heat, and stir to ensure that the all the meat has been turned in the marinating mixture. Reserve.

In another large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the garlic, onion, and paprika. Cook, stirring, until the onion is transparent but not browned. Remove the pork ribs from the marinading mixture, reserving the mixture, and brown the ribs well in the pan. When they are brown, add approximately 1/4 cup of the marinating  mixture, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let "sweat", adding more marinating mixture as required to avoid drying out the pork, until the ribs are cooked through and tender, approximately 30 minutes.

Bring 8 cups (2 liters) of water to the boil in a pan or kettle. Drain the papaya cubes in a colander. Rinse with fresh water. Slowly pour the boiling water from the kettle or pan over the papaya, then let it drain once again. Rinse once more with fresh water and let drain one final time. Add the papaya cubes to the pork mixture, and cook over medium heat until the papaya is heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in heated serving bowl, and serve immediately.

Serve with sauteed greens (kale, spinach, escarole) and soft polenta.

(Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brazileira by Abril Editora.)


  1. The dish sounds tasty, however, I have a question: Why do you have to soak the green papaya cubes in baking soda solution?

    Thank you,
    Tuty @ Scentofspice

  2. Interesting question, Tuty. I included the instruction as it was in the recipe that I was translating and adapting (and it worked well in my test), but I really hadn't thought why that step was included. A superficial Google search seems to indicate that baking soda helps in the removal of chemical residue from fruits and vegetables. Perhaps we'll be lucky and some food chemist will read this post and will give us a definitive answer to your question.

  3. Me deixou com saudades de pequi e de umbu. Meus avos eram donos de uma fazenda chamada O Alto do Umbuzeiro. Ja nao vejo umbu desde 1995.
    Brazileira de Recife, morando em GA, USA.

  4. I think the baking soda gets rid of the bitterness of the "milky white stuff" that runs out when you cut through the green papaya screen. If wanting the sweetest ripe papaya possible, one must score the peel about 2 or 3 days before slicing to eat. Did you know that you can eat ripe papaya seeds to help with stomach ailments, such as ulcers? My mamma was a strong believer of that.

  5. Joelma - Thanks for the comment and all the useful information on papayas.Your explanation about baking soda makes sense to me, though I'm not a chemist! I also loved your comment about your grandparents farm - I think that "O Alto do Umbuzeiro" is a beautiful name.

  6. I made this tonight in the pressure cooker and it turned out wonderful.I prepared a meal for two.I used 1- 1/2 pounds pork cubes, 1 bay leaf,1 whole lime juice,salt and pepper to taste in 2 cups water, cook in the pressure cooker 15 minutes. While it is cooking peel and cube 1 papaya approx. 1 pound size and I soaked it in 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 5 minutes and drained it. In the same bowl add your 6 cloves of garlic chopped fine,2 onions chopped fine,2 tsp. sweet paprika,1 cup chopped Italian parsley,1 cup chopped green onion.After the meat has cooked in the pressure cooker remove it with a slotted spoon leaving the liquid and put the meat in the frying pan with 3 tablespoons of oil and brown it.After it has browned remove the meat without the oil from the pan and return it back to the pressure cooker with your bowl of prepared vegetables.After it hits high pressure cook 3 minutes.Do a quick release and thicken your broth by stirring in 1 tablespoon and 1/2 corn starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water.Again add salt and pepper to taste...Serve on wilted greens with polenta.. :)

    1. Thanks for the great recipe! I'll definitely try this one out myself.

  7. How about the recipe for "Doce de Mamão Verde", or Green Papaya Desert in English?
    It's outstanding!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thanks for sharing such beautiful information with us. I hope you will share some more information about green papaya. Please keep sharing.
    Health Is A Life

  10. I have seen that every person wants to express their feelings but they are not able to express their feelings properly in words but the content you have written in your post is very beautiful, it seems that you have expressed your feelings Has expressed. Hi, you are a person who writes a very beautiful post, in the same way, you keep writing new posts in your life, our best wishes are with you.
    gurugram call girls
    call girls in Neemrana
    Female Escorts Gurugram
    Gurugram escort service
    call girls in aerocity
    Manesar call girls
    gurugram phase 5 escorts
    Palam Vihar Escort Servcie
    Call Girls in Indirapuram
    Sushant Lok Escorts Girls