Although they originally came from South America, papayas (or pawpaw) have integrated well into Swahili cuisine. An interesting and tasty example of this is noodles made from green papayas cooked in coconut milk.
Tambi za mapapai, the local name for the papaya-coconut milk dessert, is especially popular during Ramadhan. At this time, for example, you can watch many women at the market place in Malindi and several other parts of the Kenyan coast cutting green papayas into fine strips and selling them. Prepared in this way, it is a child’s play to finish cooking Tambi za Mapapai at home.
Anyone who has ever tried unripe papaya knows that it tastes practically like nothing. However, they absorb the taste of spices, etc., an effect that is also used in papaya-based sauces (pili-pili). But enough gibberish here is the recipe:
Ingredients of Tambi za mapapai:
1 green papaya (partly already cut into strips and available on the Asian market)
1 can of coconut milk
1 glass of water
(each according to taste, I take about 2 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of cardamom)
How to prepare tambi za Mapapai:
Peel the papaya – if not already prepared) and cut it into the longest possible thin strips (similar to noodles) with a vegetable slicer.
Then put them in a small cooking pot and add thin coconut milk and the water so that the papaya noodles are covered about halfway.
Now add sugar and ground cardamom according to taste and cook until the papaya is soft and the coconut milk has been almost completely sucked out.
Then place the papaya noodles in a serving bowl. Now heat the remaining coconut milk in a small pot while stirring until a thick sauce is formed. Pour this sauce over the papaya noodles and enjoy the Tambi za Mapapai hot or cold.