stir fry papaya buds

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.

papaya flower buds

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.

wild ginger flower buds

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

Makes 6-8 servings


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

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9 Responses to “Stir Fry Papaya Buds with Eggplant”

  1. 1

    Soma — January 25, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

    This is such an unique dish. We had papaya plants in our home back in inida. But we only used the fruit, raw or ripe, & the hollow stems to make bubbles when we were little. never knew that flowers are used too! I love bitter taste, & cook the bitter melon ever so often

    Thanks for sharing this. may be when I go back to India I’ll get to try this out.

    Soma’s last blog post..My Priceless Ruby Ring

  2. 2

    Pepy — January 25, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

    Too bad, I can’t find bunga kecombrang a.k.a bunga kantan here. One time to get North Sumatran ingredients, I had to ask my friend to send them from Jakarta.

    Pepy’s last blog post..Gado-Gado Surabaya – Guest Blogging at Rasa Malaysia

  3. 3

    Heather — January 26, 2009 @ 5:43 am

    This is so beautiful, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Thank you for showing me such an interesting look into Indonesian cuisine!

  4. 4

    Nate — January 26, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

    I don’t think I’ve had papaya buds before. Are they like lily buds?

    Nate’s last blog post..Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Chinese New Year Cioppino Hot Pot

  5. 5

    noobcook — January 28, 2009 @ 2:26 am

    I haven’t tried this before, they look very pretty and I love bitter taste actually ;p

    noobcook’s last blog post..Abalone Chicken Congee

  6. 6

    Tuty — January 28, 2009 @ 5:07 am

    Never heard of this dish before. Is this from specific area in Indonesia? Thanks for showcasing it even though I have an aversion towards anything bitter. At least I learn something new today.

  7. 7

    wawa — October 20, 2009 @ 4:27 am

    hi dear,

    do anybody know where cna i find papaya bud at Singapore?? i wanted to try this dish long time ago.. last time i remembered my grandmum always cooked for me.. spicy and a lil bit bitter.. its yummy.. i teally appriciate if somebody can help. :)

    thanks alot..


  8. 8

    poverina — November 19, 2009 @ 11:28 am

    I used to live near to an Indonesian housewife years ago. From time to time, she treated me stir fry papaya flowers. Just fried with shallot and garlic, some times with kangkung. Her papaya flowers are never bitter. Not even a tinge of bitterness. Sigh, I really miss papaya flowers. You are right about the bitterness, I can never fix this dish myself…thanx for the lovely recipe that evokes delicious memories.

  9. 9

    flora — June 10, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    I love this dish – I’m from East Malaysia. This dish is very popular there too. Now that I lives in Texas, USA, I really miss it. Couldn’t get it from the asian stores here. I love the bitterness in it too.. yummy yummy. thanks for sharing this on your blog.

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