Papaya Irichi Recipe

Papaya is a fruit that comes to mind when you think of the tropics.  It comes from a quick-growing palm-like tree that produces the large fruit.  In Okinawa, it is common and a good food source when typhoons or other items disturb regular non-local food supplies.  Aside from a sweet fruit when orange and ripe, it can also be used as a vegetable if taken when still green.  Here’s a recipe for Papaya Irichi, another Okinawan stir fry similar to chanpuru, but with some key differences.  Checkout the video below for a visual take!

Ingredients

  • 1 Green papaya
  • ½ small onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 burdock root (about 16 inches)
  • 1 large can tuna in oil
  • ½ bunch green onion
  • 1tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper, powdered garlic
  • ½ packet dashi
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 3tbsp rice vinegar

Recipe

Start out by preparing the papaya.  Remove the outer skin.  You can use a peeler, but it is easier to simply cut it away.  The papaya might have a somewhat unfortunate smell, or release a bit of sticky fluid, but don’t worry.  Cut the papaya into quarters and remove the seeds.  They should still be white if your papaya is unripe.  They tend to pop out, so it is best to scrape them out directly into a garbage bag.  Fill a bowl or pot half way with water and sprinkle some salt in.  Grate the papaya into the water, being careful to not cut yourself.  The inner core of the papaya will be a bit tougher, so you need not grate all the way through it.  Let the papaya rest in the water while you prepare your other vegetables.

Since you’ll be doing a stir fry, you want all the vegetables of similar size and texture so that they cook at the same temperature.  Grate your carrot, or slice it into thin strips.  The burdock root won’t do well in a grater, so either chop it, or use a peeler to create narrow thin strips.  Make sure you remove the outer skin on the burdock root and rinse the peeled burdock before use.  Cut the onion into roughly the same size as your other vegetables.  Slice green onions no more than centimeter width and set aside.

Empty your tuna into a large fry pan and turn the heat to medium.  The reason I suggest tune in oil, instead of in water is that you’ll need a bit of oil to keep things from burning, and the tuna oil will add extra flavor you’d miss out on by draining tuna and adding separate oil or spray.  As the tuna begins to heat, drain your papaya well, pressing out as much moisture as possible.  Add the papaya over the tuna.  This is where one of the differences between irichi and chanpuru come in.  You’ll want to cook irichi over a medium heat for a slower longer cook that will blend the flavors and less water containing ingredients together.  In a chanpuru you cook over high heat and release more water from the vegetables.

Add salt and pepper to the papaya and stir.  Add the burdock root.  Stir occasionally after about two minutes add the carrots and onion.

Add dashi and garlic, soy, and vinegar.  Continue stirring.  The irichi should reduce in volume by about a quarter, taste it and add more salt or vinegar if needed.  Add the green onions and stir.  When everything comes together in a well cooked, but not soggy combination, you have papaya irichi.  Serve and enjoy!

Papaya irichi is commonly a side dish with a bright flavor provided by the vinegar.  This is the other aspect of irichi that is different from chanpuru.  The vinegar plays well against the umami flavors of dashi and soy.