Vietnamese green papaya salad comes in two guises and one of them features earthy beef jerky and heady Thai basil (hung que). The other version of green papaya salad is southern Viet and has shrimp, pork and rau ram herb; the recipe is in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. A northern Viet favorite, green papaya salad made with beef jerky includes slivers of smoked liver and on occasion, lung too. In Hanoi's Old Quarter, I recall a little street full of green papaya salad vendors. I’ve never had the lung in salads in the U.S. Both the jerky and liver are a tad chewy, the liver adding a slight minerally quality to the salad. It’s no great shakes. If you lived in Little Saigon, you’d go to the Vietnamese-Chinese jerky store for the beef and the liver. Or you make beef jerky at home, like I did last week. In my kitchen, I omit the liver and the salad is just fine.
To dress Vietnamese green papaya salad, you have two options. One is a fish sauce and lime dressing. The other features soy sauce and vinegar. The former yields a salad that is lighter in taste and appearance that the latter. At places like the Asian Garden Mall food court in Orange County’s Little Saigon, it’s common to see the soy dressing. If you watched the movie, Scent of Green Papaya, the dressing is the fish sauce one. Regardless of your dressing, you can serve the salad pre-dressed or with the dressing on the side. Because the soy dressing turns the pale celadon green papaya a sad brown color, I like to let guests dress their own salad. The recipe below employs the soy sauce dressing.