Buah Paya Masak Titek (Peppery Papaya Soup)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Buah paya masak titek is a Nyonya soup. It has a spicy kick from white peppercorns. And it's sweetened with the umaminess of papayas, prawns, salted fish and dried prawns.

My recipe is inspired by The Best of Singapore Cooking and Cooking for the President.

The recipe from The Best of Singapore Cooking is too salty. It uses too much salted fish bones and dried prawns, in addition to salt and a chicken stock cube.

The recipe from Cooking for the President isn't ideal either. It's more like a stew than soup since there's more papaya than water. There aren't any fresh prawns, and it's less spicy than The Best Of. But I like the idea of dry-frying, then simmering the dried prawns.

I take the best parts of the two recipes to make my peppery papaya soup.

I use less papaya than Cooking For, and less salted fish bones than The Best Of.

I omit the salt and stock cube but there're fresh prawns, as well as dried ones dry-fried till very fragrant.

Lastly, I go along with The Best Of's amount of white peppercorn and chilli.

My soup contrasts the fruity sweetness of papaya with a salty and mildly spicy stock. I like it very much. I hope you do too.

BUAH PAYA MASAK TITEK (PEPPERY PAPAYA SOUP)
Source: Adapted from The Best of Singapore Cooking and Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 6 persons)

350 g prawns
peel, leaving tails on, devein and rinse; reserve shells and heads for making stock
80 g salted threadfin bones, rinse twice
900 ml water
40 g dried prawns (¼ cup), rinse and dry-fry till fragrant
12 g candlenuts (3 pieces)
1 red chilli
1 tbsp white peppercorns
80 g shallots, peel, wash and chop roughly
800 g half-ripe papaya (skin should be green with a hint of yellow)
peel, rinse, quarter lengthwise, discard seeds, trim inner surface, and cut crosswise 1½ cm thick
sugar to taste, about ½ tsp

Bring prawn shells and heads, salted fish bones and water to a boil. Simmer gently, covered, for 5 minutes.

Make spice paste whilst stock is simmering. Blend or pound dried prawns, candlenuts, chillies, peppercorns and shallots finely.

Remove and discard prawn shells and heads from stock with a slotted spoon. Add ground paste. Continue gentle simmering for 10 minutes. Add papaya and bring back to a boil. Simmer till almost tender, 3-4 minutes depending on how ripe papaya is. Do not overcook or papaya would turn mushy. Turn off heat. Let soup sit 10 minutes, covered, to develop flavours.

Reheat soup till gently simmering. Taste and season with sugar to taste, about ½ tsp. Add prawns and heat till just pink and opaque. Do not overcook.

Serve Buah Paya Masak Titek hot, accompanied by sambal belachan and calamansi lime juice as a dip.

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