Thai-Esque Pork with Papaya

Photo by Flickr user Reeding. Used under a Creative Commons license.

A few months ago, in one of those temporary mental orgies of Healthful Living, I subscribed to Clean Eating magazine. Lots and lots of food-porny photos of heavy-on-the-veggies meals, lots of recipes that sound really really good until you start getting into them and realizing they call for nonstick skillets and “1 tsp canola oil” and reduced-fat cheeses and other nonsense up with which I will not put. But the veggie (and fruit) focus still appeals, and man those photos sure do look yummy, so I’m giving some of them a sort of a try anyway.

This one started out as the cover recipe for July 2011, “Thai Pork and Papaya with Couscous.” I had never cooked with papaya before (actually, I don’t think I’d ever even eaten papaya outside of a smoothie/Jamba Juice context), and this recipe called for just dumping the raw papaya chunks in at the end, which did not sound super-great. It also called for ground ginger, which sounded similarly non-super-great. Anyway, by the time I was finished changing it all around, it worked a little something like this.

Thai-Esque Pork with Papaya
Serves four

2 Tbsp peanut or other neutral-flavored oil
1 jalapeno or other hottish pepper, seeded if you like, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
About a 2″ piece of fresh ginger, minced or Microplaned
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 pork tenderloin (about a pound-ish), cut into thin slices
About 1 to 1.5 lb papaya (the one I bought was just over two pounds, so now I have a chunk of papaya mooning about in my fridge), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Juice and zest of 1 lime (my lime was looking a bit spotty, so I only zested about half of it)
A few generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Heat the oil over medium heat in a generously sized skillet (I used my 12″ cast iron skillet). Add chile pepper, ginger, and garlic; stir furiously for about 30 seconds, taking care that garlic doesn’t brown.

Add pork, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until pork loses pink color, about 2 minutes. Add papaya and continue cooking and stirring for another minute or two. Pork will cook through very very quickly. Don’t overcook it or it will go from “tender yum” to “shoe leather” faster than you can say “whoops, that was stupid.”

Remove from heat. Immediately stir in lime juice/zest and spinach. Add a half cup or so of chopped cilantro if you have it on hand (I didn’t, but it would’ve been yummy).

Serve over rice or be all anti-traditional (as I did, as Clean Eating suggests) and serve over couscous instead. Pan-culturality! Let’s eat!

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About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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