Papaya buds (flower buds from papaya tree, bunga pepaya) is notorious for their bitter taste. When treated right, they are very quite alright. Indonesians have well developed taste buds for this itsy bitsy bitter baby flowers.
I am not sure if other cuisine in the region use this part of the plants for cooking, but this is quite popular in Indonesian restaurants.
The papaya buds is blanched with hot water to remove the bitterness. They are practically cooked when blanched, so the cooking time itself is very short. Mainly only to get the rest of the ingredients cooked. It is quite important not to overcook. Once the papaya buds is thrown in, only another minute is needed to mix everything together. If overcooked, the dish will be soggy and weird.
I really had fun cooking this. I find the cooking process quite interesting, how all other ingredients are processed by mortar and pestle / food processor.
How can I describe the taste .. it has slightly bitter taste still – which is the main characteristic of the flower. The eggplant gives it interesting texture – a squishy quality. The chili – something to burn your tongue and throat with. The fermented soy sauce gives it a good kick. The best part of all is the fragrant wild ginger flower bud. It is all mashed up together with the rest, really brings everything together.
Papaya buds with pea eggplant stir fry, tumis bunga pepaya
500 gr papaya flower buds
100 gr pea eggplant (rimbang)
20 gr (3 cm) galangal
5 gr (5 cm) fresh ginger
50 gr green chili (for aesthetic purposes, throw in a couple of red ones)
1 tablespoon fermented soy sauce (taoco)
5 salam leaves
2 stalks Wild Ginger Flower Buds or Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan), remove the outer layer - use only the soft center part of the buds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/4 cup water
Wash and pick flowers into bite sizes. Blanch with boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside
In a food processor, add pea eggplants, galangal, ginger, green and red chili, fermented soy sauce, wild ginger flower buds and hit pulse for 2 - 3 minutes until everything is mixed well and turned into grainy paste
Heat cooking oil in a wok / pan. Stir fry paste and salam leaves for 1 minute over high heat. Add water
Toss in blanched papaya flowers. Stir fry quickly for three minutes
Add sugar and salt. Cook for another minute
Remove salam leaves and serve warm