Mauritius foods: Pawpaw all the way
Papaya, or pawpaw – the fruit of the Carica papaya tree originating from South America – has gained popularity in almost all tropical areas of the world today, from Africa to India as well as the Philippines, Australia, the Indian Ocean and Oceania. In Mauritius, the papaya – ripe or not – has become a favourite ingredient in many local dishes and desserts.
A generous full-flavoured fruit, papaya is most often eaten raw, sprinkled with sugar or a dash of lime juice. But the fruit shows great versatility while still green, too. Once peeled and emptied of its seeds, grated papaya makes an ideal salad, complemented with a lime dressing. It also makes a great side dish to accompany salted fish fried with chilli and onions. And it can be served in baked goods, curry (with meat or fish) or in pickles. On the sweeter side of things, combine papaya with orange peel or vanilla for an exquisite jam, and if grated when half-ripe, it makes indescribably good fritters. Crystallised papaya is also served as a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.
The papaya tree is renowned for its numerous health benefits. The seeds and milk are used in hydrogels to help in the healing of burns, and drinking the fruit’s juice or an infusion of its leaves appeases digestive problems. In Brazil, fresh papaya flowers are infused to fight bronchitis and tracheitis, as well as liver diseases. In addition, papain – the enzyme found in green papayas – is used to tenderise tough meats like octopus, which is often left to marinate with pieces of unripe papaya before cooking. The leaves of the papaya tree can also be wrapped around raw meat to tenderise it.