Winter Papaya Salad with Toasted Black Sesame

Papaya is one of the few fruits (the other being banana) that are recommended with other foods. Papaya is especially good with proteins, due to its high levels of the digestive enzymes papain and chymopapain, which act similarly to pepsin. It is also warming, and kindles the digestive fire (Agni), unlike many fruits, which are cooling, so it is good even in winter. (Please avoid cold fruits like melons in winter)

Here in the southwest we get lovely large Maridol papayas from Mexico, similar or identical to the ones you get on the east coast from the Carribean. In the supermarket you see the orange ones, but at the Vietnamese market I found more reddish ones, that are sweeter, more fragrant, and have a lovely color that contrasts so nicely with the black sesame in this dish.

I made this recently and brought it to Jerry and Anna’s house for dinner. They served Oaxacan lamb cooked in banana leaf with chili sauce. This salad was a perfect accompaniment; the moist, light, Agni-stimulating nature of the salad helping to digest the dense, heavy lamb, which was slightly dry from his cooking method, and the cooling, moist lime and coconut compensating for the dry, hot nature of Jerry’s hot chili sauce.

This recipe calls for lime juice. Lemon is really a poor substitute. Lime is a completely different flavor, and goes with fruit in a way lemon does not. Lime is used with fruit and with chili throughout Mexico and South/Southeast Asia; it is considered cooling, and gives a delightfully fresh scent to fruit salad.


2-3 cups papaya, cut into chunks.
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (i also really like the bottled lime juice from Iran, they are a different variety than the United State limes, with a wonderful fragrance like the limes in South India and Sri Lanka)
1-2 tsp raw sugar…i like raw coconut sugar…Indian jaggary or evaporated cane juice are also good. Its also great with honey instead.
1-2 tbsp toasted black sesame/coconut mixture (see below)
a pinch of salt if you want

Mix everything together a couple of hours before serving. Let it sit at room temperature so that all the flavors combine well.

Toasted black sesame coconut mix

Heat a heavy pan or wok to medium hot. Add black sesame. As it starts popping, add an equal amount of dried coconut. The best is from Sri Lanka. Keep stirring so nothing burns, lowering the heat if need be, or just removing from fire. You want the coconut slightly brown, not burnt. I then put this in the coffee grinder for a count of three–i want it coarse, not powdered. You could just grind it a bit in a mortar or suribachi, too. This is excellent in fruit salads.

Papaya in Ayurveda

Papaya is recommended in Ayurveda for balancing Vatta (moist, warming and sweet). As it is also a little astringent, and warm, it can be fine for Kapha, in smaller amounts. But if i were making the above recipe for Kapha, i would leave out the added sweetener.

On the other hand, Papaya increases heat in the body (virja), so it should be avoided most of time for Pittas, but again, there is a difference between a balanced Pitta and an unbalanced one; also between someone very Pitta dominant, and a Pitta Vatta. This is why diet must really be tailored to your unique constitution and your current prakruti.

So usage could like this.

Very Vatta Dominant or unbalanced: Eat frequently.
Vatta Pitta: Eat frequently, unless Pitta is unbalanced.
Pitta Vatta: Eat on occasion, esp if flatulant.
Kapha Vatta: Eat regularly, but not too ripe.

There are also the ways you balance the hot nature of this fruit, like mixing with rose water, untoasted coconut, or lime.

Because of the heat issue, Papaya is not recommended during pregnancy, and in Tamil Nadu I used to hear women avoiding it who were trying to get pregnant.

Papaya kindles ‘agni’/digestive fire, which in a sense makes it excellent for both Kapha and Vata, who tend to weaker fire by virtue of being dominated by cold water and air.

Obviously it is to be used with caution in a Pitta with heartburn, though even there, it might help, as some heartburners have lots of digestive stagnation aggravating their fire. So again, we must look at the specific case, rather than just forbid it to any Pitta.

I find it less aggravating to Pitta than very sour fruits like Kiwi, sour citrus, or Mango. But in all cases it is excellent for Ama (Digestive Toxin) accumulation, with thick or greasy tongue coating.

A person with excess Vatta will benefit from regular use of Papaya, especially if there is flatulence. It is also prescribed for dyspepsia associated with heart disease.

Papaya in Chinese medicine

Papaya is prescribed for digestive diseases in Chinese medicine, too. The unripe green papaya especially is used for digestive complaints. I have found Vietnamese green papaya salad an amazing digestive. The ripe fruit is used more for dysentery, urinary complaints and constipation. I recommend it all the time for constipation in my practice, and have had excellent results. Unfortunately a lot of United Statesans seem to dislike the flavor of papaya. If they try my salad, I think they will change their minds! 🙂

copyright eyton j. shalom, march 2011, san diego, california. use with permission, all rights reserved.

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttps://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com

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