The Mysterious Properties of Beans and Green Papaya

Not so mysterious really.  Papayas have an enzyme, blah, blah, blah.  Sometimes science takes all the mystery out of things.  This post developed as a result of my pinto beans not softening.  I added the small amount of baking soda, soaked them overnight, boiled them for hours, on hours, all to no avail.  They remained quite firm.  Then, I remembered the tenderizing effect of green papayas, and thought we'd give that a try as a last ditch attempt.  Nice there were some in the garden.

Unfortunately the papaya did not help.  Definitely a good thing I had started early on my Cinco de Mayo project, a big pot of Chile con Carne, to go with my Margarita.  The beans weren't totally hard, but a large portion of them got eliminated set aside for another use (maybe bean dip), and the chile turned out fine with mostly meat and vegetables (including that green papaya, which cooks up like squash.)  Do you know that in some places they don't even consider putting beans into chile.

Also the mystery of the beans got solved.  If you keep your dry beans, especially here in Hawaii with the humidity and warmth, for a year or longer, there are phenolic compounds, blah, blah, blah..... and they will never get soft.  Period.  No matter WHAT you do.  *see note below.

Next day,  3/4s of a green papaya left.  Now, what does that suggest?  Yes, Green Papaya Salad, which I do happen to love.  One of the best things on a Thai menu.  And, perfect to have after or with a bowl of Chili, seeing as the green fruit has a lot of that digestive enzyme.

I added some moringa leaves, which you can see above, and garnished with lovely bright nasturtiums.  The last time I posted about this salad I didn't give a recipe, just a link.  By this time, we do have a fiddled with recipe for you, as follows: 

Green Papaya Salad
Prep Time: 30 minutes

   1 small green papaya, OR 1/2 large, peeled, seeded & julienned
    1/2 cup roasted peanuts or cashews
    2 cups bean sprouts or julienned cucumber (I used chopped orange bell pepper and moringa leaves)
    1 to 2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges or long strips
    3 spring onions, cut into long matchstick-like pieces
    1/2 cup fresh basil, leaves left whole or chopped
    handful of fresh coriander (optional - Bob doesn't like it so we have it on the side)
    1 red chili, sliced, seeds removed (reduce or omit, to taste)
    optional: 1 cup blanched green beans or grated carrots
    optional: cooked baby shrimp OR cubed fried tofu
    Garnish: little edible flowers or cilantro

    1/2 tsp. shrimp paste OR substitute 1 Tbsp. fish sauce OR soy sauce for vegetarians
    2 Tbsp. good-tasting vegetable oil
    2 Tbsp. fish sauce OR soy sauce for vegetarians
    3 Tbsp. lime juice
    1/2 to 1 Tbsp. liquid honey, to taste
    1 fresh red chili OR 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. chili flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (I used Sriracha hot chili sauce)

Whisk up the dressing and toss well.  Garnish with some little edible flowers if you wish or with cilantro.

Some recipes call for garlic.  I think it takes away from the other flavors. Ha ha ha, just didn't think of adding it in.  But really delicious as it.  So, not needed.  You can tell there is a lot of flexibility with this salad.

 * Here's the blah, blah, blah on beans for those interested:
"Beans become resistant to softening when they're stored for a long time -- months -- at warm temperatures and high humidities. This resistance results from a number of changes in bean cell walls and interiors, including the formation of woody lignin, the conversion of phenolic compounds into tannins that cross-link proteins to form a water-resistant coating around the starch granules. There's no way to reverse these changes and make hard-to-cook beans as soft as regular beans."
I'm linking this up with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  Check it out.


Kay said...

OK, I have made pinto beans many times and had no idea about why yours wouldn't soften. What we learn from blogs, right? I guess I usually buy the beans for a specific purpose and don't have them around otherwise. And, I know, I'm terrible, but I don't put beans in my chili. Just don't like them in it. Your salad looked good and I know very little about papaya. Thanks for sharing!

Claudia said...

Thanks Kay, I actually like this version better that what I'd made in the past, with way fewer beans.

Janel Gradowski said...

I never knew beans could change and never soften like that! Although the last time I made bean soup it did seem to take much longer for the beans to soften, so I wonder now if the change wasn't beginning in those. Don't you just love food science?

Claudia said...

Yes, and needless to say, I'll not be treating dry beans as a form of storage food any longer.

Carole said...

Kia ora from New Zealand to you in Hawaii. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

Vicki said...

I didn't know that beans could not soften. I've never not used beans in my chili.

Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) said...

I've done that! I keep dry beans way too long in my pantry.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Oooh, good to know about the humidity and bean keeping. I may need to do some purging. ;-)

I have been craving green papaya salad lately too--time for a farmers market visit.