• Som tum (Brett Stevens)Source: Brett Stevens
Whether it's sweet and ripe or crunchy and green, there's no denying that papaya tastes just like a tropical holiday.
4 Dec 2020 - 12:32 PM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2020 - 12:40 PM

--- Palisa Anderson is host of the brand-new series, Water Heart Food with Palisa Anderson, 7.00pm Sundays on SBS Food and On Demand. ---

While for some, ripe papaya is the taste of summer, for others it tastes like... well, feet. It's like the coriander divide all over again, only this time, it's personal.

For papaya, the issue comes down to the enzyme papain, which has a pungent smell that people report as anything from stinky feet to vomit to delicious. Some love it, others won't even walk into a store that sells it.

It's worth the waft. Papain helps break proteins down into peptides and amino acids, hence why papaya is an excellent meat tenderiser. It may also help to reduce inflammation and pain, support good digestion, and ease muscle soreness

Feet, schmeet, right?

The trick to neutralising papaya's overpowering scent is as simple as a sprinkle of lime juice, or eat it green.

The quick, sneaky trick that makes papaya delicious (and less like smelly socks)
While some think the tropical fruit is just fine, others say it has an overpowering musky, sweaty-sock-like stench. In the second group? Here's how to fix it.

Here's how to bask in papaya's many nutrients this summer. One taste and you'll instantly be prone on a tropical beach without a care in the world... if only, right?

Listen to Luke Nguyen


This vibrant Vietnamese salad is bursting with fresh flavours and half a dozen textures. Luke Nguyen's recipe contains papaya, pork belly, prawns and an abundance of fresh herbs, dressed with a zesty dipping sauce and topped with crunchy shallots and peanuts.

Prosperity is yours

Buttery sesame paste, honey and vinegar dressing adds tartness to papaya and daikon's sweetness in Justine Schofield's revamped prosperity salad. It's as easy as throwing everything into a bowl and giving a toss.

Papaya salad

This colourful spin on the classic Vietnamese papaya salad adds carrot into the mix, as well as fragrant lemongrass-grilled prawns.

Add a little grilled fish

Paperbark smoked Blue mackerel, papaya salad, Davidson plum dressing

The sweet, very-fishy mackerel is a good match for papaya's somewhat overwhelming taste. This mackerel and papaya salad with a Davidson plum dressing cooked for Palisa Anderson in her new series, Water Heart Food, is the match you need for lazy summer lunches that sparkle into dinnertime.

Bun cha cha cha

Bun cha makes for perfect summer eating, with noodles, herbs and, in Angie Hong's case, a delicious green papaya salad on the side. Papaya's tartness is tempered with sugar before serving alongside a bucket load of fresh herbs and some flavoursome pork patties.

Green papaya salad with buffalo jerky

A fresh Vietnamese salad of papaya, herbs and coconut served with a homemade dipping sauce.

Classic Thai som tum

Som tum

When you think papaya salad, you generally want to go crunchy and green. Amy Chanta's classic Thai recipe packs in hot, sour, salty and sweet flavours to wake up every sense and then some. Add protein for a main, or serve it on the side. If you head to an Asian grocer you can sometimes buy bags of the papaya pre-shredded, which makes life a bit easier.

Curry with a side of fruit

Chicken curry with papaya coriander salsa

A fresh-cut papaya salsa is just the thing to serve alongside a lemongrass and coconut chicken curry. It's quick to pull together, using just three ingredients plus the essential squeeze of lime.

Beef carpaccio with cucumber, grapefruit and green papaya

The garnish is a fabulous combination of sweet, sharp, crunchy and zesty, with a little bite from the chilli and radish.

Pork it up

Only a bold dressing could take on the richness of a pork and papaya salad, so there's plenty of the ginger caramel sauce to go around. Think sweet, salty, crunchy and fresh, all at once.

Extra fruity

Indonesia's rujak is basically summer in a bowl. Grapefruit, lychees, pineapple, mango, pomelo and papaya (of course) are doused in a super-spicy syrup. Think kecap manis and sambal oelek have no place in a fruit salad? Try it and forever be changed.

Salad toss
Mud crab, white asparagus, pin-striped peanut salad

This impressive-looking salad, topped with matchsticks of asparagus, brings together a small but mighty list of ingredients. A delicate balance of lemon and creme fraiche enhances the sweetness of the mud crab.

Japanese potato salad

Is it mashed potato? Is it a sandwich spread? Nobody really knows! But if there’s one thing we DO know it’s that this Japanese potato salad is bloody delicious  … and who can hate a salad you can serve with an ice-cream scoop?

Gremolata bean salad

Rocket, olives and cannellini beans make for a wonderfully flavourful, yet light salad. Perfect as a low-carb meal or as a side.

Sweet potato salad

This is a lovely side to serve with seafood. 

Muy’s Cambodian green mango salad

This fresh mango salad recipe was passed to Muy Keav from her mother. This is a great recipe for mango season (which in the Northern Territory is between August and mid-December) when green elephant mangos and sweet green mango can be sourced from a local supplier, or through Asian grocery stores in the southern states.

Cucumber tahini crunch noodle salad

A healthy salad packed with crunchy veg, rice noodle and topped off with a fresh tahini dressing. Keeps well in the fridge for an easy lunchbox filler.

Roast pumpkin salad with Sriracha yoghurt

Creamy butternut pumpkin with lashes of spicy Sriracha yoghurt make for a fantastic salad year-round.

Roasted apple, pear and beet salad

This vibrant salad brings together creamy goat's cheese, roasted fruit and crisp greens for a side that simply can't be ignored.