In the Philippines, it is common to make pickled papaya as a side dish or condiments. We call this atsara. Grated papaya is pickled in a pickling solution of vinegar and sugar. Sliced bell pepper, ginger and carrots are usually added but these are usually added for color. Some would add raisins which I particular dislike.
Ginger adds flavor, though, and I like the pickled ginger more than the papaya itself. Most of the traditional Filipino dishes I’ve learned are usually by asking my elders how to cook particular dishes. While atsara is a traditional Tagalog dish, we usually don’t make them at home as it is usually easily available from the market. For recipes such as these, I usually turn to an old Filipino cookbook called “Philippine Cookery and Household Hints” where traditional Filipino dishes are discussed. This is one old book I have read since I was in grade school.
What set me off to making atsara was the bunch of ginger my mom harvested from the garden. Papaya is also readily available in the backyard. So now I make my version of atsara. The day I was going to make the atsara, my mom mentioned that one of siling labuyo (birds-eye chili) plants was bursting with chilis. This gave me the idea to add chilis to atsara to get a hot and spicy pickled papaya. I’ve got to act fast and harvest them, otherwise the chicken would beat us to them. Chilis are particularly attractive (and perhaps tasty) to the native chickens growing in the backyard. I added a stalk of lemongrass but the ginger flavor was overpowering so I couldn’t taste any lemongrass flavor at all.
Anyway, here’s my version of the atsara – sweet, spicy and hot!
1 ½ cups grated green papaya
½ cup ginger julienne
1 stalk lemongrass, cut crosswise (optional)
Siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili)
1 cup cane vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
Put vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer till sugar has melted. While the pickling solution is boiling, press the grated papaya to remove liquid, wash with water then press again. Wash a handful of siling labuyo. Put the rest of the ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, till solution is reduced to half. Cool and store in a jar. You can place the jar at room temperature away from direct sunlight. I prefer my atsara cold so I keep them in the ref.
Atsara goes well with fried or grilled meats, something you can easily take on a picnic with you. Just imagine, grills and pickles on a sunny day, so put the saddles on your horses and go to your picnic spot and enjoy a great food pair!
This post I am sharing with Andrea’s Grow Your Own Event for March, 2008.