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[MSP] Papaya Salad - Happiness in a Dish

AnneInMpls May 23, 2007 10:50 PM

I'm currently obsessed with papaya salad. I want to eat it every day. (Or at least every week.)

I love papaya salad. I love it plain. I love it with crispy dried beef. I love it with lettuce leaves. I love it with green beans. I love papaya salad prepared Thai style, Vietnamese style, and Lao style. I just plain love papaya salad!

I'm trying to list all the Twin Cities restaurants that serve papaya salad, so I can visit them all and pick a favorite.

Here's my list so far:

- Jasmine Deli - Uptown (2532 Nicollet Ave, Mpls)

- Jasmine Orchid - Stadium Village (304 Oak Street SE, Mpls)

- Ketsana's Thai Restaurant (7545 Lyndale Ave S, Richfield)

- Pho Ca Dao (439 University Ave, St. Paul)

- Thai Bazil (704 University Ave, St. Paul)

- True Thai (2627 East Franklin Ave, Mpls)

- Va Lor Super Excellent Papaya Salad (371 University Ave, St. Paul)

What's missng from my list? (May's Deli, for one - I almost went looking for it today, but was waylaid by Jasmine Orchid.)

What is your favorite place for papaya salad?


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  1. AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls May 23, 2007 10:59 PM

    As for specific reviews or ratings of papaya salad, I have this to say: I've never met a papaya salad that I didn't like.

    But Pho Ca Dao has my favorite version these days. If I recall correctly, it comes with crispy beef - but I could be confused, as we ordered a lot of food. And the portion is HUGE. Leftover papaya salad is lovely for breakfast.

    The salads at Jasmine Orchid (the Thai version) and True Thai are tied (pun intended) for second place. These salads both include green beans, as well as tomatoes, peanuts, and - at the Jasmine - shredded carrots.

    But I really like Va Lor's version, too - the papaya shreds are beautifully unregular, and they mash up big slices of lime in the salad. I like using the lettuce leaves to eat the salad (they have a slight cooling effect to balance the extremely spicy sauce). Plus, you get to watch them make it in a huge wooden bowl behind the counter.


    2 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls
      The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls Jun 21, 2007 05:07 AM

      For those of you who (like me) have been trying to find Va Lor, it's on University Avenue in St. Paul, kitty corner from Mai Village--it's not right on the corner, but a few doors in. If you're looking for a big sign that says Va Lor (like I have been)--you might miss it. Instead, the sign has a picture of papaya salad in a mortal and pestle.

      It seems to have 8 tables of four. No hours posted.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        AnneInMpls RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 21, 2007 10:56 AM

        According to the owner (when I asked a few weeks ago), Va Lor is open daily until about 8, depending on how busy they are.


    2. The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls May 24, 2007 06:12 AM

      I too, love green papaya salad, though, I'm afraid to say I have indeed met a few I didn't like. I don't like it when the dressing is too sweet or too tart or just too much making the whole dish soupy. Also, I really like it when the papaya is cut and pounded by hand rather than run through a food processor. Maybe it's just an aesthetic thing, but somehow, it loses some of its interesting texture when it's shredded mechanically. I'm afraid I haven't pursued much papaya salad in the Twin Cities, though maybe I'll be inspired by your terrific list.

      I'm pretty sure (though I can't find it in any of my notes now), I saw papaya salad on the menus of a couple of places at the Hmong market in St. Paul. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/318303 Not really a "restaurant" but a super hectic food court, if you're feeling adventurous. I look forward to reading about your further papaya seeking adventures.


      4 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        clepro RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2007 11:30 AM

        Yes, I was there this weekend and papaya salad is on several menus. The one I had was excellent--crunchy, tart, included peanuts and tomatoes, sans crab. I'd tell you which booth it was from, if only I knew...my Hmong friend grabbed it from the place she said was best. I'll check with her and post her recommendation.

        1. re: clepro
          The Dairy Queen RE: clepro Jun 11, 2007 11:35 AM

          Sounds fantastic! Please do come back and tell us which stand it came from. And, while you're at it, I would love to hear which other dishes your friend recommends at that Hmong food court, if she has any other thoughts she and you are willing to share.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen
            clepro RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 12, 2007 09:29 AM

            Here's what Mo wrote about the salad:
            The papaya salad is made by Nyob Zoo Market (means Hello and literally translates to Living (nyob) Good (zoo)). The lady's name is Zoua. She's the first booth to the right (north side) when you're facing the booths. Her papaya has thai eggplant, long bean, cherry tomatoes, garlic, crab paste, fish sauce, tamarind sauce, sugar, peanuts and sliced lime all pounded together in a mortar and pestle. Sometimes green mangoes can be shredded and mixed with the papaya too.
            I don't know exactly how this works, but if any of you want to visit the market as a small group some Saturday, Mo said she'd be happy to play tour guide and translator again. So, how would I organize that? Do I start another thread?

            1. re: clepro
              The Dairy Queen RE: clepro Jun 12, 2007 09:33 AM

              Hi Clepro, sounds fun. If you would like to organize a "chowdown" or outing with other 'hounds, the mods have let us post a "chowdown" announcement thread announcing the chowdown. You must specifically ask for replies via e-mail (rather than in the thread) and do the organizing and discussion of all the logistics off the board. I've organized several "chowdowns" and would be interested in attending this one. My e-mail address is in my profile (in the Best meal I ever ate section. Yeah, weird, I know.) If you wish, you may send me an e-mail and I would be delighted to impart whatever "chowdown organizing wisdom" I have, such as it is, if that would be of any help to you.


      2. Foureyes137 RE: AnneInMpls May 24, 2007 07:06 AM

        My wife and I are true believers in the power of the papaya salad.

        The best in Minneapolis is undoubtedly at Chai's. It is absolutely perfect in every way every time we've had it (and we're having it again tomorrow night). Crispy, crunchy, the salt of the fish sauce, the tang of the fruit...great presentation and it's Chai's so you know whatever follows will also be spectacular.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Foureyes137
          tingerbell RE: Foureyes137 May 29, 2007 11:41 PM

          I agree with you I love Chai's Papaya salad, they have a papaya salad their that is serve with pickle crabs, it is to die for. (you have to ask them specificly thought.

          1. re: tingerbell
            Foureyes137 RE: tingerbell Aug 23, 2007 01:40 PM

            I'm glad this thread came back up.

            So I finally ordered the pickle crabs with my papaya salad at Chai's a few weeks ago. I'm not sure how these are supposed to taste or be eaten or look...but I can tell you that, sadly, I could not handle the little buggers. It looked like small stone mortar filled with crushed rock crabs in a pool of wet mud. The shells and innards had been stained black with the pickling agent. I figured you just ate the shells like rock crabs, tell me if I got that wrong please. Pulling the meat out would have been an exercise in patience.

            Anyway, I did not spit them out, however it was one of the most...interesting things I've ever eaten. Sorta tasted like I'd imagine crabs covered in amonia and water would taste like. Did I get a bad batch or is this something my palate will need to adjust to?

            1. re: Foureyes137
              AnneInMpls RE: Foureyes137 Aug 23, 2007 10:04 PM

              I must admit, I had a similar reaction to the pickled crab in the papaya salad at Chai's. The pieces were interesting but hard to eat (unless you eat the shell, which was too "shard-y" for me) and very, um, pungent. And they made the salad REALLY salty. Probably is an acquired taste, but I'm glad I tried it.


              1. re: Foureyes137
                Foureyes137 RE: Foureyes137 Aug 24, 2007 12:09 PM

                I'd like to be sure to add that you must request the pickle crabs in order for them to come with the salad. You must "opt into" this experience if you will.

                1. re: Foureyes137
                  tingerbell RE: Foureyes137 Aug 24, 2007 08:23 PM

                  I don't know if you got a bad batch or not. When ever i order it's always seet and extremely salty. I suppose theres is instruction on how to eat it. You just suck on it and spit it out. I guess it an acquire taste. For some reason I love that thing,( of course this coming from a girl who basically eat anchovy straight out of can.) But funny thing I cannot and refuse to eat the dark murky sauce papaya salad. Alot of time the dark murky sauce come from the pickle crab juice, or the fermented fish!

                  1. re: tingerbell
                    Foureyes137 RE: tingerbell Aug 25, 2007 07:13 AM

                    I had gotten them on the side as my wife wasn't terribly interested in trying them, so they came in the little dish with the murky pickle juice. Eating the shells (which it appears I wasn't supposed to do) wasn't very appealing either. Whoops.

                    I too am a huge sardine and anchovy eater, so I think it might have just been off, or to truly appreciate, it needs to be mixed into the salad.

            2. l
              Loren3 RE: AnneInMpls May 30, 2007 08:43 AM

              In a pinch, you can get a papaya salad at Sawatdee Thai, but you'd have to be desparate.

              I like Ketsana's.

              I should check out Kimson on S. Lyndale next time I'm there. They probably have one.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Loren3
                AnneInMpls RE: Loren3 Jun 25, 2007 02:52 PM

                > In a pinch, you can get a papaya salad at Sawatdee Thai,
                > but you'd have to be desparate.

                For years, I never noticed papaya salad on Sawatdee's menu. But there it is (hiding under the name "Som Tum" :=). I had some yesterday because I was indeed desperate - all the other Thai restaurants near me are closed on Sunday. It wasn't bad - better than no papaya salad at all - but would be at the bottom of my list if other options are available.


              2. moomon RE: AnneInMpls May 30, 2007 11:47 PM

                You can find Thai style papaya salad in all Thai restaurants in town, but I have to say that Chai's has the best Thai style papaya salad in town. As tingerbell replied, Chai's papaya salad with small pickled crab is oh no so good. :)

                1. AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls Jun 6, 2007 03:23 PM

                  Thanks for the info, especially the tip on the Hmong supermarket! (That's Foodsmart on University, right?)

                  I'm planning a trip to Chai's this week - it sounds too good to pass up. And I'm going to May's Deli as soon as I can figure out where it is. (I'm not familiar with that area of St. Paul.)


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: AnneInMpls
                    The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls Jun 6, 2007 05:46 PM

                    Anne, if you're referencing my post re: the "Hmong market, " no, I'm not referring to Foodsmart. Really, I'm referring to the foodcourt at the Hmong "International Market Place" at Como and Marion.

                    The link I provided in my post above is a discussion of where, exactly, this "Hmong market" is, then a couple of different posts (by TeamKitty and me) about our visits there. This link has photos of what the market looks like from the street, to make it easier to find:



                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      AnneInMpls RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 6, 2007 06:18 PM

                      Aha! Thanks for the clarification. I just gotta try this place when I'm up for some culinary adventure.


                      1. re: AnneInMpls
                        The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls Jun 6, 2007 06:46 PM

                        Yes, you have to be in a particularly adventurous mood, I think--plus, not be in a hurry. The whole market is pretty fascinating--they even have (not in the same building as the food court, but outside) a kind of "farmers market" with numerous vendors selling fresh produce. Some of it looked pretty unusual, as in, something you wouldn't expect would be grown locally. Next time I need to find out if this produce is grown locally, perhaps by the vendors themselves, or if they are importing it and, if so, from where.

                        Along the West wall of the building with the food court in it is a small counter with just a few seats--maybe half a dozen?--where they seem to serve hot tea. I think it would be a real kick to hop up on on of the bar stools and shoot the breeze with the regulars. I think you'd learn a lot, and, maybe even have some fantastic tea. Who knows?


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          clepro RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 11, 2007 11:51 AM

                          A lot of the produce is grown locally, in season. Off-season, it's shipped in, much of it from Florida. (I know this because it's my friend, Mo's, family business that supplies most of the produce.) Mo gave me a big box of rambutan last autumn, and created an addict in the process--ever had rambutan? It looks like lychee, but tastes fresher, more citrusy. Rambutan is out of season right now, but yesterday I treated myself to a bag of crisp, delicate fragrant pears from the first table to the left as you enter the covered market from inside.

                          The tea counter--yep, you can just hop up on one of the stools. The proprietor's name is Lou, and according to her, the tea will literally cure whatever ails you. (For me, she focused on describing its weight reduction qualities...alas) She keeps pouring the tea--she brews and serves just the one kind, Kann-On Green -and you keep drinking and chatting and then, when you've had enough and are ready to leave, just put a tip in the jar, however much you want. Her brother grows and cures the tea in Thailand and ships it to her. She sells at the store and on her website (www.healteamn.com), along with tea pots, cups and some fabulous dark, wooden tea scoops.

                          If you're interested in the market, best get their soon. Mo tells me they might have to move when the lease runs out in December.

                  2. d
                    Danny RE: AnneInMpls Jun 7, 2007 07:37 AM

                    I stopped by Dragon Star Market the other day, and there's a counter in the back (near the meat department) with a big, handmade sign that says, "Fresh Made Papaya Salad." They had a giant mortar and pestle waiting, the same sort of thing I've seen at the Hmong Sports Festival. (A good, albiet repetitive chow experience - this year, it is at Como Park June 30th - July 1st)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Danny
                      The Dairy Queen RE: Danny Jun 7, 2007 07:46 AM

                      Danny, that's a fantastic find! It sounds like the real deal. I'll have to get myself over there this weekend!


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                        dave43 RE: The Dairy Queen Jun 15, 2007 04:10 PM

                        How about Na's in Chanhassen. I'm thinking of trying it tonight.

                      2. re: Danny
                        EarlOfSandwich RE: Danny Jun 26, 2007 08:38 AM

                        I went to Dragon Star and got the smaller ($3.99) size. The lady made it in a huge mortar and pestle and gave me a sample to make sure I was happy with the level of chile heat. That salad was huge and sufficed for supper two nights in a row. It's really soupy. Here's a tip: don't eat it while driving the car (not that I would know-- I'm just saying...la, lal, la)

                        While waiting for the salad to be made, I perused the bizzare Malaysian energy drinks in the case below the counter and picked up a can of Gold Lion and a little brown medicine bottle of Commando Bear 2000. I figure they will be handy driving the graveyard shift on my upcoming roadtrip.

                        1. re: EarlOfSandwich
                          AnneInMpls RE: EarlOfSandwich Jul 2, 2007 09:55 PM

                          Wow - thanks, Danny and Earl Of S. for the tip on Dragon Star Market! I went there tonight and got a large papaya salad, which is enough to feed a very large and very hungry family. Two of us ate our fill, and there's still enough for two more meals. What a bargain at $6!

                          I loved watching the salad being made. This version contains lots of veggies, in addition to papaya: fresh tomatoes, tiny Thai eggplants, and green beans. Plus hunks of lime. The salad was delicious and exciting (especially when one bites into a lime slice thinking it's going to be an eggplant).

                          The salad stand also does bubble tea. What a great place to know about! Thanks again.


                      3. AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls Jun 20, 2007 04:37 PM

                        I went to Chai's today for some papaya salad. It was great. Thanks for the tip!

                        It was much less sweet than versions at other Thai restaurants (like Jasmine or True Thai), and contained just papaya, tomatoes, and roasted peanuts (no green beans or carrots). The peanuts were especially good. The salad was served with cabbage wedges, which was a nice change from iceberg lettuce. And it was less "soupy" than other papaya salads (not that I mind a saucy salad, myself).

                        The waiter didn't ask me for a spice level, but it had a nice amount of heat. I'd call it medium - perhaps a bit on the low side of medium.

                        Chai's is a lovely place, too - tiny but beautifully decorated in a sophisticated, minimalist style. I'll definitely go back, especially because I forgot to ask about the "pickle crabs" this time.

                        414 1/2 Cedar Av. S. (next to the Cedar Theater)


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: AnneInMpls
                          tingerbell RE: AnneInMpls Jun 21, 2007 03:50 PM

                          I'm so glad you enjoy it, i went in on Tuesday for some papaya salad and they were out.
                          :(. Next time order fried banana ice cream for dessert.

                        2. k
                          KTFoley RE: AnneInMpls Jul 9, 2007 09:59 AM

                          Got a question for the experts about green papaya salad. Can folks say more about this dish at Va Lor?

                          I ordered one "medium spicy" and got it to go, which turned out to be a good thing. Back home, took a couple of bites and put it away for half an hour to see if I was having some kind of a temporary problem. Later, I took another bite or two and then gave the whole thing up for compost.

                          The salad didn't offer much of anything sweet or tart, very little to balance the senses. There were no peanuts or lime or tomatoes that I could discern, and it was impossible to pick out a flavor for the papaya. Instead, there was just an overwhelming taste of ... I don't know, sriracha and dried shrimp?

                          Does that sound like how papaya salad is usually prepared? Should I have expected something along the lines of what I got?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: KTFoley
                            The Dairy Queen RE: KTFoley Jul 9, 2007 10:08 AM

                            That doesn't sound like a typical papaya salad to me. Because it's green, you wouldn't expect the papaya itself to have a lot of flavor (in fact, if you are making it at home and don't have access to papaya, some suggest substituting cucumber for the papaya), but the sauce is usually a combination of sweet (classically sweetened with palm sugar, though, perhaps not here in the U.S.) and salty (usually, fish sauce and/or soy) and tart (lime.) There would typically be long beans, peanuts, tomatoes, dried shrimp thrown in there, along with some chilis and garlic. It's usually served with sticky rice.

                            EDIT: here's a link to a recipe for papaya salad that has photos, too, of how it typically looks. http://www.thaitable.com/Thai/recipes...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              KTFoley RE: The Dairy Queen Jul 9, 2007 10:24 AM

                              The pictures with the recipe are VERY helpful -- that final dish looks as balanced & fresh as I was hoping to get. The one that came home with me had enough whoknowswhat to give the papaya a slightly murky coating.

                              No rice.

                              1. re: KTFoley
                                The Dairy Queen RE: KTFoley Jul 9, 2007 10:36 AM

                                A lot of places in the U.S. skip the rice because (I think) they think most Americans are expecting more of a "salad." For instance, I recently tried the papaya salad at True Thai in Minneapolis and they didn't serve it with rice. I wouldn't say True Thai's papaya salad was the best rendition I've ever had, but it was certainly better than what you've described.

                                I wonder if they misunderstood you, though, I can't imagine what it is that they served you instead. It doesn't sound like it tasted very good. :(


                            2. re: KTFoley
                              Foureyes137 RE: KTFoley Jul 9, 2007 10:09 AM

                              Wow, that sounds terrible! While the component ingredients may differ from place to place, the most common are green papaya, ground chilis, lime juice, peanuts, tomatoes, and most importantly fish sauce. It should be sweet and salty and crispy as heck.

                              If it's soggy and tastes like dried shrimp and sriracha, you've got a crummy knock-off on your hands if you ask me. Perhaps just an off day or the slow boat from Thailand was slower than usual this week.

                              1. re: Foureyes137
                                tex.s.toast RE: Foureyes137 Jul 9, 2007 10:51 AM

                                I've been lurking on chow hound generally, and this thread specifically, for quite a while, but considering i'm living back in the cities for the summer, and i have a serious love for papaya salad (always once, sometimes twice daily on my trip to thailand last winter) i feel compelled to comment.

                                I ate at Va Lor not three days ago, and had a fair, if odd experience. I would not describe Va Lor's papaya salad as the inedible mess KTFoley got, but it certainly was neither very much like the traditional thai version, nor one of the best renditions i have encountered. The sauce/dressing was light on peanuts, lime and a sharper salt from the fish sauce. Its texture was strangely thick and the color was even more on the gravy side of the lighter reddish i've had on better thai versions. As others mentioned the papaya itself was cut irregularly, and this i found more distressing than the somewhat flat and certainly unusual dressing. As for sides, i prefer my Som Tam with sticky rice, but the Va Lor rendition came with rice noodles and romaine lettuce, an interesting take on sticky rice and cabbage. Overall, definitely not my fave and with many other places to try, I don't think i see Va Lor entering any papaya salad rotation of mine in the near future.

                                1. re: tex.s.toast
                                  The Dairy Queen RE: tex.s.toast Jul 9, 2007 11:06 AM

                                  Welcome tex.s.toast! Thank you for your report. I've seen a lot of places in the US serve it over wedges of cabbage--True Thai did that, in fact, now that you've mentioned it.

                                  I wonder what it is that's making Va Lor's dressing more opaque and gravy-like? And, does it seem they are leaving out the sugar?


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    AnneInMpls RE: The Dairy Queen Jul 9, 2007 03:48 PM

                                    Chai's serves their papaya salad with cabbage.

                                    I noticed above that clepro's friend Mo mentions tamarind paste as an ingredient. That would certainly cause some murkiness. And perhaps they use more or darker fish sauce in the "dark and murky" versions.


                              2. re: KTFoley
                                AnneInMpls RE: KTFoley Jul 9, 2007 03:36 PM

                                KTFoley, that's too bad. I wonder if they forgot the limes? That would account for the lack of tanginess. And maybe you got an extra scoop of dried shrimp in yours.

                                Green papaya doesn't have much flavor - it's more about the crunch. To me, it tastes like a vegetable, such as celery hearts without the celery flavor.

                                I've had Va Lor's papaya salad twice (once medium, the next time mild) and really liked it. Mine had large chunks of lime pounded in with the salad, and a dark, pungent dressing. And tons of hot pepper. (Their medium was the spiciest salad I've tried yet.) But it was a "minimalist" version - two or three slices of tomato, no carrots or green beans, and no rice or noodles. I don't remember if there were peanuts or not. And it wasn't sweet at all - instead, it was all tartness and spice and crunch.

                                You could try one of the Asian markets, where you can order custom-made papaya salad.

                                The salad I had at Dragon Star Market was similar, but had many more vegetables (tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and tiny Thai eggplant, plus some REALLY hot peppers that look like green beans - ouch!). And the lady asked how sweet I wanted it - she put in two huge spoons of sugar, and it wasn't all that sweet.

                                The Dragon Star dressing is also very dark and murky - frankly, it's scary - but I loved the end result. (Like sausages, perhaps it's better not to know what goes in the dressing for papaya salad!)

                                Or perhaps the Thai style would be more to your taste. It tends to be sweeter with a lighter, sometimes pinkish, dressing.

                                Before you give up on papaya salad, try the version at True Thai, Chai's, or Jasmine. (Note that Jasmine offers both "Thai style" and "Vietnamese style" - the latter comes with mint and the same fish-sauce dressing that you get with a cold noodle salad.)

                                Good luck with another try!


                                1. re: AnneInMpls
                                  AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls Jul 9, 2007 03:58 PM

                                  As long as I'm posting today, I think I'll add some Places links....

                                  Jasmine Deli
                                  2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

                                  607 Washington Ave S Ste 100, Minneapolis, MN 55415

                                  Pho Ca Dao Restaurant
                                  439 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103

                                  Jasmine Orchid
                                  304 Oak St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                                  True Thai Restaurant
                                  2627 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                                  Thai Bazil [CLOSED]
                                  704 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104

                                  Dragon Star Oriental Foods
                                  633 Minnehaha Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104

                                  Ketsana's Thai Restaurant [CLOSED]
                                  7545 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55423

                                  May's Deli & BBQ
                                  300 Larpenteur Ave E, Saint Paul, MN 55117

                                  Chai's Thai Restaurant
                                  414 1/2 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

                                2. re: KTFoley
                                  lalalynnt RE: KTFoley Aug 23, 2007 01:10 PM

                                  personally i don't think Va Lor's papaya is all that. the murky, dark sauce is a combination of crab/shrimp paste, tamarid, and fermented fish. this is also what gives it the 'strange' smell besides that of the fish sauce. these are very typical of the hmong and lao version. i love these ingredients in my papaya salad however not all who use these ingredients produce the same results. the same goes for all vendors of papaya salad. example, if you go to the international hmong food court at marion and pennslyvania there are plenty of papaya salad vendors but they all won't have the same flavor in their salads. everyone likes their salad differently so everyone will have their own favorite vendor. once you find a vendor that makes your salad the way you like it i suggest you stick to it because if you go elsewhere, you'll definately be dissapointed. i personally prefer the hmong and lao version with the 'murky' sauce because it's more flavorful than the thai and vietnamese version. i find those to be too light and a little bland. the crab/shrimp paste and fermented fish taste is definately an acquired taste though but you can always ask these ingredients to be withheld. one of my favorite vendor is the one at dragon star. double dragon on rice st & maryland is their sister store and has an excellant stand as well. both papaya salad makers at these store are hmong. when you order your salad, do tell the papaya salad maker ahead of time of any ingredients that you don't want added - like sugar or peanuts or fermented fish!

                                3. AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls Jul 10, 2007 05:35 PM

                                  I went to May's Deli today, and must sadly report that they don't currently have papaya salad on the menu. The nice lady said they might have it in the future, but she was really busy, so I didn't grill her on any details.

                                  The good news is that my bbq beef sandwich (banh mi) was great! So was the coconut smoothie that I ordered to ease my sorrow over no p. salad.


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: AnneInMpls
                                    lalalynnt RE: AnneInMpls Aug 23, 2007 01:17 PM

                                    Another place worth mentioning for its papaya salad is a hmong grocery store called Capital City Grocery located behind Taco Bell on Rice Street and Larpenteur. they have a little deli that you can order other food too. one to try is the sausage! this is a great item and goes perfectly well with some sticky rice.

                                    1. re: lalalynnt
                                      AnneInMpls RE: lalalynnt Aug 23, 2007 10:07 PM

                                      Thanks for this recommendation, lalalynnt! I've driven past Capital City Grocery many times, but have never stopped. And thanks also for your other recommendations above. As I love the "murky" Hmong-style papaya salad, I'm definitely going to try these places soon.


                                  2. e
                                    Enso RE: AnneInMpls Aug 24, 2007 05:45 AM

                                    I was reading this and thinking, "How could I have missed this my entire life?" and then I got to the salted/pickled crab description...

                                    Anyway, I might try it someday, but if all versions have crab or shrimp I won't be able to split it with my 'hound-mate. And there are so many items on the menu that I know I'll like plus get to share.

                                    BTW, is Chai a pretty good Thai restaurant for other dishes? I used to like True Thai a lot but lately their dishes seem to have an increasing 'gloppiness' characteristic.

                                    How much of the addictive factor of the papaya salad comes from the dressing, do you think? I have a southwestern asian dressing that I frequently use on just about any kind of salad/vegetable combination and for me it is 'to die for'. I swear I could drink it straight out of the cup I mix it up in!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Enso
                                      Foureyes137 RE: Enso Aug 24, 2007 12:21 PM

                                      Point of clarification: You have to request the pickle crabs to get them in the salad at Chai's. Their salad without the crabs is my favorite preparation in MPLS. And I think fish sauce and lime juice are Vietnamese crack. Too little and it's not right, too much and it's all you taste. Wait...that came out wrong.

                                    2. j
                                      Jitterbug RE: AnneInMpls Aug 24, 2007 11:29 PM

                                      I know that Cheng Heng in St. Paul had a papaya salad when I was there (though it has been a while..) It is a Cambodian restaurant and I don't remember what the salad was like but I do remember that I enjoyed my meal.

                                      Cheng Heng Restaurant
                                      448 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

                                      1. m
                                        mngirl11 RE: AnneInMpls Sep 4, 2007 08:35 PM

                                        I too love papaya salad. I try to stay away from the really strong smelling ones though. You should try 5 Star Deli at the Hmong International Marketplace. Their papaya doesn't have that strong fishy smell and is just the perfect sweet and tartness that papaya should be. The best time to go is during the weekdays b/c weekends are super hectic. You might not find a parking space.

                                        1. r
                                          reannd RE: AnneInMpls Sep 5, 2007 06:24 AM

                                          Best Papaya Salad. My friend's house.
                                          2nd best: Thai Bazil. (and cheaper than most groceries at a whopping $4!) -- You can get Lao or Thai Style. I was able to eat both.. usually can't do the Lao style.

                                          Tried Cambodian at the Cambodian festival back in July.. that was wayy too fishy for me:)

                                          1. AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls Sep 5, 2007 09:30 AM

                                            Attempting to add another Place link. I've gotta get to the International Hmong Marketplace!


                                            International Hmong Market
                                            217 Como Ave, St Paul, MN 55103

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: AnneInMpls
                                              dave43 RE: AnneInMpls Dec 9, 2007 07:10 AM

                                              Can someone confirm that Ketsanas in richfield is closed? Also anyone know where one can pick up a papaya salad in the western suburbs?

                                              On that note, I had the papaya salad at Na's in chanhassen. I haven't had too many PS but I liked theres. It was crisp and was both sweet and sour...a good mix. I ordered it medium and it was very hot. Next time i would probably order mild. It came with sticky rice, an iceberg lettuce wedge and beef jerky with a sweet sauce on it. My only complaint is that it seemed a little expensive-$10. It seems others are getting PS for alot less. I would be interested in any West side Chowhounds thoughts on there PS.

                                              1. re: dave43
                                                reannd RE: dave43 Dec 9, 2007 05:28 PM

                                                Ketsanas is definitely closed. It is going to reopen as this Nativa's Thai or something per a sign, but no date yet.

                                                Hope it is better than Ketsana's.. or at least more reasonable.

                                                1. re: dave43
                                                  AnneInMpls RE: dave43 Dec 9, 2007 07:33 PM

                                                  Oh, Dave, this is great info! Now I have a place to go if I ever find myself in Chanhassen. I may even have to schedule a trip to Na's on purpose.

                                                  By the by, the cheaper papaya salad usually doesn't come with beef jerky. And sometimes not even with sticky rice. So think of it as 2 (or 2-1/2) dishes for that $10.


                                                  1. re: AnneInMpls
                                                    dave43 RE: AnneInMpls Dec 12, 2007 07:10 AM

                                                    Went to Taste of Thailand in Downtown (7th & Hennepin) Got the Papaya Salad. It came with beef Jerky and sticky Rice. They put the papaya on top of the iceberg lettuce which was dissapointing because the lettuce was soggy from the sauce. The sauce was good, a good balance of sweet and tangy. I ordered medium and it wasn't even close to Na's mild. They had peanuts and a little green bean in it which wasn't in Na's version. I'm not sure if the peanuts was a good or bad thing. If I go back I would ask to keep the lettuce seperate and requst extra Hot.

                                                    1. re: dave43
                                                      dave43 RE: dave43 Mar 19, 2009 04:05 PM

                                                      Had to ressurect my favorite thread. Have been really dissapointed with na's lately. My new favorite is Lemon Grass Thai in Brooklyn Park. Anyone have any new discoveries?

                                                      1. re: dave43
                                                        kriminalrat RE: dave43 Nov 13, 2011 05:28 PM

                                                        Has anyone had a good version in the eat street area...the only mention I saw was Jasmine Deli.

                                                        Jasmine Deli
                                                        2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

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