XiHu's Magical Market

XiHu Market

Feast. “No. 67,” “No. 86,” and papaya milk.

This post is really just going to be about papaya milk. That’s all I’m going to talk about. As I round out the Taiwan series, it’s only fitting that this last post deals with something fresh, tangy, and slightly sweet, akin to a heart-warming hug between long-time friends.

“No. 67” and “86” was simply food-court food that was pretty good, considering the haphazard method Rock and I undertook in selecting our meal (pictures of food that had the highest glint factor from the reflection of lard was the inclusive criterion).

Our vested interest in food was sidetracked when Rock stumbled upon a rather green-looking stand selling fresh papaya milk, which was a Taiwanese delicacy that I had not yet experienced at my current age. The papaya milk was lightly sweet and the usual strong papaya flavor was almost undetectable. Its medium thickness oozed a lighter than orange tint, and overall, certainly contained less sugar than assumed. The entire experience was pleasant, a contrast to the heat of the day and a complement to the light orange glow of the sun.


I did have my doubts at first; I was actually never a fan of eating the papaya fruit itself. When papaya is cut open, the black seeds, to me, are a bit of a turn off, and sometimes, the smell is oddly reminiscent of garbage or overdue banana peels. Individuals on Yahoo answers (a most definitely UNRELIABLE source of information that I am citing just for the hell of it) tend to agree with me.

According to Yahoo (the best source of question/answer entertainment), the best answers to the question “I just cut open a fresh papaya. Is it supposed to stink?” consists of…

“…smells fruit barf to me…”

“…pine-vomit kind of smell…”

“I have never smelled a yummy smelling papaya…”

“musky odors…sweaty feet…vomit…durians smell like blocked drains…”

“…the large Mexican ones REEK…”

“…sensitivity to certain enzymes”


“…it should be inviting…”

…and we can stop there. Some of the answers were slightly off-topic, some funny but grammatically butchered, some quasi-not-really-scientific, and some ending in outright denial. A nice sample size. The smell isn’t as bad as durian, which, from memory, sort of smells like vomit all the way. Either way, the smell of papaya surely doesn’t make me want to consume it. So what’s the deal with papaya milk?

Casually digging into some research reveals some interesting facts about the humble papaya.

  1. The seeds that are offputting to me are sometimes ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper.

  2. Papaya has alot of pectin, which is also found in apples. Pectin is used to make canned shit, like jam and jellies.

  3. Papaya leaves are used for medicinal purposes in tea, and its flowering buds are also used in Thai cuisine.

  4. Papain, an enzyme found in papaya, can be used to tenderize meat.

None of these attributes answers my original question, which is why the papaya smells like feet. A quick dig into some super-old 19th century scientific observations may shed light upon the fact that papain may be the culprit for the supposed smell of “fresh/rotten fruit.” Upon adding fun things like acidic media to papain, it was observed that precipitates formed, which in chemistry, simply means something reacted together in the solution and precipitated out (liquid to solid). This gives the idea that perhaps a sprinkling of lime juice alleviates the noxious odor. Similarly, in the case of papaya milk, the casein proteins in dairy provide a negative charge, which I assume would bind in some fashion to papain, “distracting” it from its normal function of stinking up the entire room.

On a side note, I love papaya salad, which is made from green papaya (something like a hard, raw, crunchy application; no odors or vomit involved).

This concludes the Taiwan series.

More fun times ahead. Forecast: Pleasanton, Davis, Berkeley, San Francisco, New York, Portland. Oh, and even a bit more of Los Angeles.

Stay tuned. Go sniff some papayas. Just kidding. Don’t. You won’t be able to stay tuned after that.