This time of year, I start to miss Hawaii. A lot. I love that we actually have distinct seasons here, but spring is such a tease, with a few days of sun followed by week of rain. Although it’s been great to have sun every weekend, I’m ready for it to stay sunny and nice. I know, I know, this is just what it’s like in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t bring us tropical weather, but when I start to feel an island craving, I can turn to some island food. This simple dish is gorgeous, fresh and perfect for spring or summer.In Hawaii it’s pretty common to have various food served in tropical fruit. Pretty much every church potluck had fruit salad in a pineapple or watermelon, and I always loved how the juices of the serving “bowl” mixed with the flavors of the salad.
It was at a friend’s bridal shower that I first had this delightfully tropical crab and papaya salad. She was marrying a pastor and so the shower was a fun combination of pastor’s wives in their fifties and her friends in their twenties. We had all sorts of dainty foods like scones with clotted cream and finger sandwiches, foods that make you think, “I’m a real lady.”
But the course that captured everyone’s hearts and stomachs was the showstopper crab salad in a papaya half. It caused even more excitement than the “Sax and Seduction” cd I slipped in the top of my gift bag for the guest of honor.
The salad itself is so simple to make, it’s just lump crabmeat with bell peppers tossed in a dressing of fish sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha for heat, sucanat to add a touch of sweetness, and a smidgen of mayonnaise to pull it all together.
What makes it a showstopper is how you serve it, in a papaya half. When you scoop the seeds out you’re left with the perfect little bowl shape that you can fill with your crab salad. Then, as you eat the salad, you scoop some papaya out with each bite and are instantly transported to the island hideaway of your dreams!
Seriously! Just take a bite of this salad, stare at the picture below, and you’ll swear you can hear the crashing of ocean waves.
But of course, to make this, you need Hawaiian papaya. If you’ve tried the Mexican variety, you’ve no doubt been disappointed. It’s not just me. When Eric and I were in Mexico in October, the chefs there told me they were so jealous of Hawaiian papaya because their varieties just can’t compare.
Fortunately, our local Safeway carries them. While they’re expensive at three bucks a pop, it’s totally worth it for a special occasion meal that looks like it’s straight out of a tropical resort.
- 1/4 lb (4 oz) crab meat, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (about a ¼ cup)
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (about a ¼ cup)
- 3 TBS rice vinegar
- 2 TBS fish sauce
- 1 tsp sucanat
- 1/4 tsp sriracha
- 1 TBS fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp mayonnaise
- 1 Hawaiian papaya
- In a medium bowl, mix the crabmeat and peppers together.
- In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, fish sauce, sucanat, sriracha, lime juice and mayonnaise.
- Pour the dressing over the crabmeat and peppers and toss to coat.
- Cut the papaya in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
- Mound the crab salad into the hollow of each papaya half.
- Serve cold!
Approximate cost/serving: This is definitely one of the more expensive dishes you’ll see on Eating Richly. In Hawaii, I could a papaya for under $1 or even free. In Washington it’s at least $3. Crab can be very affordable on sale, you can even use canned crab. This cost me about $5.50 to make so $2.75 a serving. But you’d probably have to pay at least $10 for this in a restaurant, so it’s worth it to make at home!
Gluten Free: No changes needed.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 84Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 1455mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 9gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information is an estimate only.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.