Who doesn’t love a good seafood salad? This Asian inspired Baby Cuttlefish Salad is paired with the crunch of the green papaya, pungent fish sauce and tamed by aromatic palm sugar.
Why I Love Baby Cuttlefish Salad with Green Papaya
After my recent trip to Venice, I was inspired to make a cuttlefish salad. I did think about a squid ink style salad as I ate a squid ink dish almost every day but thought better of it! LOL.
Think I’ll leave the squid ink to the experts. BTW, it really is the best in Venice. The squid ink is so salty and thick and sticks to the pasta or bread like tar.
As I bought my baby cuttlefish at my Asian fishmonger, I decided to aim for an Asian inspired salad. I headed over to the grocer and saw green papaya and I instantly knew it would work so well together.
Cuttlefish on its own is very placid on the palate so adding pungent fish sauce and sweet palm sugar elevates this green papaya recipe.
What Is Green Papaya?
My very first encounter with green papaya was when I first tried the traditional Thai Som Tam.
Som Tam is green raw papaya salad and I remember it blew my mind and also my tongue because the spiciness was next level! Nothing quite like eating a spicy salad on the streets of Bangkok in the sweltering heat and humidity.
I actually prefer the version with the tiny fermented crabs as I loved sucking on it. I press the entire crab between my tongue and the roof of my mouth and squeeze out all the goodness. TMI? Sorry!
Green papaya is an unripe papaya. It is remarkable how different unripe and ripe papayas are and you’d be forgiven for thinking they were 2 different fruits.
Green papaya is oval in shape, is firm to touch and also has the cavity with seeds in it but is a lot less pulpy.
The flesh is a light green and a little translucent and it is crunchy in texture. Green papaya is eaten more as a vegetable in savoury dishes than it is as a fruit on its own.
The red papaya on the other hand has orange flesh, super sweet and soft in texture when ripe. Our Red Papaya Salad with Chilli Charred Corn showcases this delicious fruit.
Are Green Papayas More Nutritional Than Ripe Papayas?
The answer is yes. Here are some of its more nutritional benefits:
- Green papayas have a higher amount of potassium.
- They have higher papain and chromopapain, protein-digesting enzymes that helps to improve digestion. That is because they are picked raw and therefore the enzymes have all been retained. These enzymes also help in the breakdown of proteins, fat, and carbohydrates, and supports a healthy metabolism.
- It has a higher fibre content and therefore is great for colon cleansing.
- The cleansing of toxins within the body also helps to improve skin conditions.
- Green papaya has more carotenoids and therefore it gives the immune system a natural boost.
- It has a compound that helps improve lactation. As it is high in latex, the fruit must be cooked through before consumption. And I can personally vouch for this as I am living proof that it really works!
Where to Find Baby Cuttlefish
I bought my baby cuttlefish from my Asian fishmonger. I find that they are more readily available there than my non-Asian fishmonger.
So, if I need it specifically, I tend to go there first. They had both the frozen and fresh version so of course I chose the fresh version. All fully cleaned and ready to be cooked!
If you’re not able to find fresh baby cuttlefish, you may be able to find it in the frozen section of your Asian supermarket. Give that a go.
Otherwise, just buy normal fresh calamari or squid as a replacement.
How to Grill Baby Cuttlefish
Grilling baby cuttlefish is tricky business! Don’t ask me how many times I have over done my cuttlefish and has turned out rubbery. The Venetians in my book are the best at cooking cuttlefish.
No matter how I ordered it when we were in Venice, be it battered and deep fried, in a salad or in pasta, it is always cooked to perfection. So tender and soft. Melt in your mouth stuff.
For this recipe, we also want the outside of the baby cuttlefish to brown a little. For that to happen, the baby cuttlefish must be dried out as much as possible.
Cuttlefish is extremely high in water content and for the browning process to occur, it has to be as dry as possible.
In the past, I have made the mistake of waiting for the baby cuttlefish to brown and when it doesn’t, because it’s still wet, I overcook it and it becomes chewy.
You need to pat them dry as much as possible with paper towels. This process may take longer if you’re using frozen baby cuttlefish.
It has to thaw completely before you can pat it dry. I tend to even squeeze it gently between the palm of my hands to ensure all the water is removed.
Baby cuttlefish does not take very much to cook through. So, the only way to achieve the grill marks is to put in high heat. If you have your BBQ on, use that. I just use my grill pan.
Coat the baby cuttlefish with olive oil so that it doesn’t stick onto the grill. Just 2.5 minutes on each side and you’re done.
Honestly if you don’t achieve the grill marks, don’t worry about it. This salad recipe is very strong in flavour so although the added smokiness may be nice, it is not a deal breaker. At least your baby cuttlefish will be cooked to perfection!
What is Gula Melaka?
Gula Melaka in English is palm sugar. But it is a specific type made from the sap of flower buds from the coconut palm.
It is brown in colour, rock hard and usually comes in the shape of a cylinder. When boiled, Gula Melaka is thick, sticky and has a smoky sweet flavour. Once you have tasted Gula Melaka, you’ll never go back!
You can find this variety of palm sugar from your Asian grocers and it’s an fantastic ingredient to make salad dressings with.
How to Make Baby Cuttlefish Salad with Green Papaya
How to Prepare the Vegetables
Peel the green papaya. Then using a shredding peeler or mandolin, shred into long thin slices. This really is the best way to prepare them for any green papaya recipes.
Using the same utensils, shred the purple cabbage.
Bring a medium sized saucepan of water to the boil.
Cut off the ends of the snake beans and discard. Place the snake beans into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Then pat them dry and cut the snack beans to about 1 cm wide.
Cut the stem off the chilli. Slice it down the middle lengthwise on one side of chilli and open it up. Remove the seeds. Cut the chilli into half or thirds, depending on the size and then cut into thin matchstick slices. If you love the spice, keep the seeds.
How to Grill the Baby Cuttlefish
Wash and clean the baby cuttlefish.
Using paper towels, dry the baby cuttlefish entirely. Squeeze them gently between your palms if you have to. It is imperative the baby cuttlefish is completely dry as they have a very high-water content.
Once dry, coat the baby cuttlefish with olive oil. On a grill pan on high heat, grill the baby cuttlefish 2.5 minutes on each side.
How to Make Palm Sugar & Fish Sauce Dressing
The palm sugar or Gula Melaka is almost impossible to cut through as it is rock hard. The best way to get a small portion is to grate it.
In a small saucepan, add 100g of water to 50g of palm sugar and mix on low heat for about 5 minutes or until fully dissolved.
In a medium mixing bowl, add the palm sugar, juice of 1 lemon, fish sauce and grated garlic clove. Mix thoroughly.
How to Assemble Baby Cuttlefish Salad
In the bowl of dressing, add the shredded green papaya, snake beans, coriander and chilli. Mix well.
Do not mix the purple cabbage in as it will stain the green papaya.
On a serving platter, place ½ of the mixed salad to start with. Add or half the shredded purple cabbage. Then place ½ the grilled baby cuttlefish more on the outer part of the salad so that it’s visible.
Then add ¼ of the salad, followed by the rest of the purple cabbage. Continue with the rest of the grilled baby cuttlefish and finish it off with the rest of the salad mix.
Get a few slices of the red chilli to place on top to add to the vibrant colours.
Voila! How scrumptious does that sound? It’s also a great salad to just have on its own for lunch as it’s nice and light with the added seafood component. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!
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Baby Cuttlefish Salad with Green Papaya
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- Peel green papaya then shred with a julienne peeler or mandolin.
- Shred the purple cabbage with a julienne peeler or mandolin.
- Cut the ends off the snake beans. Place the snake beans into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut the snake beans to about 1 cm wide.
- Cut the stem off the chilli. Slice it down the middle on one side of chilli and open it up. Remove the seeds. Cut the chilli into half or thirds, depending on the size and then cut into thin matchstick slices.
- Wash and pat dry baby cuttlefish. Ensure the bay cuttlefish is completely dry. With paper towels, squeeze between the palms of your hands gently to remove as much water as possible. Coat the baby cuttlefish with olive oil. On a grill pan on high heat, grill the baby cuttlefish 2.5 minutes on each side.
- Tear the coriander leaves.
- Grate the palm sugar. In a small saucepan, add 100g of water to 50g of palm sugar and mix on low heat for about 5 minutes or until fully dissolved.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the palm sugar, juice of 1 lemon, fish sauce and grated garlic clove. Mix thoroughly.
- In the bowl of dressing, add the shredded green papaya, snake beans, coriander and chilli. Mix well. Do not mix the purple cabbage in as it will stain the green papaya.
- On a serving platter, place ½ of the mixed salad to start with. Add half the shredded purple cabbage. Then place ½ the grilled baby cuttlefish more on the outer part of the salad so that it's visible.
- Then add ¼ of the salad, followed by the rest of the purple cabbage. Continue with the rest of the grilled baby cuttlefish and finish it off with the rest of the salad mix.
- Get a few slices of the red chilli to place on top to add to the vibrant colours.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
- As a substitute for baby cuttlefish, use baby octopus or a regular squid. Just slice the squid into rings.
- If you’re not able to find green papaya, use carrots. It has the same consistency and the tastes are similar. Do not get regular ripe papaya. This fruit is completely different when it’s ripe and not suitable for this salad.
- You will be able to find palm sugar in your Asian grocery store. Another well known name for palm sugar is also Gula Melaka.
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