To be fair, this dish would have been much more enjoyable if it had been eaten under sunnier conditions. It's a summer salad, and its coolness would be best complemented by soaring temperatures. The bitter wind and damp fog of San Francisco's evening didn't serve as the best setting, so unfortunately that altered my taste a bit. Putting the realities of June in San Francisco aside, however, it was a pretty tasty salad!
First off, this salad eats more like a slaw than a salad. For the uninitiated, it's made with papaya that isn't the sweet, yellow soft papaya that comes from Hawaii or Mexico. Green papaya is actually unripe papaya, so its flesh is firm and crunchy. The papaya was julienned into matchstick strips, combined with basil, garlic and chopped peanuts, and tossed in a marinade of fish sauce and lime. It was sweet and salty at the same time, a play on the ying and yang principle that is characteristic of Vietnamese cooking. Then strips of beef jerky adorned the salad, adding a nice salty, meaty texture. Little Green Cyclo served a bag of freshly fried shrimp chips on the side.
I really loved how all of the flavors came together for this salad. The basil was potent and aromatic, the peanuts gave it a nice crunch, and the fish sauce made it tangy. I actually saved half of my salad from Off the Grid and ate it the next day, and it was even better since the papaya had longer to marinade. I enjoyed it much more the second time around, out of the wind and on my couch. It's funny how one's atmosphere can influence taste buds, isn't it?
This was definitely a salad that I would order again for take-away so that I could enjoy it the next day. I think it would really pair well with their garlic noodles. Yum!
Rating: 3.5/5 (ratings guide)
Little Green Cyclo (@lilgreencyclo), $7.00 per salad
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