Fifteen years ago if a tarot card reader had told me that fifteen years later I would not only be cooking and eating raw papaya with a smile on my lips but also forcing others to do so, I would have balked. I would have have also "pooh-poohed" away the whole idea and not paid the tarot card reader in full.
Ten years back if my daily horoscope in TOI predicted "raw papaya eating days in the near future", I would have stopped reading it then and there. Wouldn't have waited five more years. To stop reading TOI I mean.
Five years back when my Ma said I should buy raw papaya once a week and ripened papaya twice a week, I ho-hummed. "Okay, what the heck. We can do this once in a while," I told myself.
I still do it once-in-a-while. Do not have the devotion towards it like my Ma. But maybe soon. Five more years to go and we will see.
I really do not understand the Bong's uncanny diligence towards random health food items like beler paana, kaanchakolar jhol(raw plantain curry), kaancha peper tarkari(raw green papaya sabzi) and chirotar jol( a drink so bitter that it will scald your soul and detox you like no other). Either it is karma or it is evenings spent eating out egg-chicken roll, tamarind water phuchka, engine oil deep fried telebhaja and heavy on ghee(or is it dalda) biriyani. Of course too much of the latter needs to be balanced out with at least some of the former.
The bowel, and that too the Bong bowel, not to be confused with Bong baul, can take only so much.
But poor me does not eat too much of the roll and phuchka these days, and I don't have many fond memories of kaancha pepe to share. I was one of those kids who would suffer through chicken pox, mumps, measles, jaundice and typhoid in an entire school year and the jaundice only made sure that I had my fill of mulo seddho(boiled radish) and pepe seddho(raw papaya boiled) at an early age. Too much of anything good is bad for you and so there went my papaya devotion at an early age.
But this grated raw papaya sabzi is very different from the usual raw papaya curry.It elevates "pe(n)pe" to a different status. This "pe(n)pe" is fit for high heels and bejeweled chiffon. Maybe Nigella (Lawson) eats it on Saturdays. I am not sure but who knows. Not that it is better than a kosha mangsho but it is better for you.
The recipe for this grated kaancha peper tarkari is sourced from my Ma. Also my friend's Mom makes a similar dish. It is a simple dish but what with the papaya being grated and the addition of coconut makes it really good. And when I say "Papaya is good" you have to believe me. If you still have doubts go ahead and add some shrimp. It can only get better from here.
Grate half of a medium sized raw papaya in a grater.
Heat Mustard Oil
Temper the hot oil with Kalonji and slit green chillies.
Follow with a clove of garlic finely minced and quarter of an onion thinly sliced. Saute till onion becomes soft.
Next add the grated papaya. Sprinkle some turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and mix well.
Add 4-5 more slit green chilli and saute at medium heat. Cover and cook until papaya is almost done.
Add sugar to taste and some grated coconut. I used frozen grated coconut. Mix well and cook till everything is done. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Serve with rice.
For the shrimp option, saute some small shrimp with salt and turmeric and at the last stage mix with the papaya sabzi.