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Papaya milk is a quick, easy 2-ingredient old-school Taiwanese drink. Maybe because there are a LOT of grandmother's tales about how papaya can stimulate breast growth and the production of breast milk! Papaya & fish soup is actually part of the traditional diet for new Chinese mothers post-birth!
What is it?
Like bubble tea, papaya milk (木瓜牛奶 mu gua niu nai) is a popular old-school street stall drink in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. (It's actually 1 of the earliest freshly squeezed juices commercially sold in Taiwan, dating to the 70s.) Unlike the former though, it is not quite as common in other countries but luckily it is very easy to make at home. You only need 2-3 ingredients and a few minutes!
Note: the Dominican Republic also has a papaya milkshake drink but it requires more ingredients than this Taiwanese papaya milk.
Papaya is rich in the vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants which may help lessen the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. However, some people may be allergic to the fruit, particularly people with a latex allergy.
Some people like to drink papaya milk for weight loss, as the fruit contains fibre and the froth helps you feel temporarily full. (You can also add bananas to thicken it and help you feel full faster.) However, do remember not to drink too much if using full-cream or condensed milk as they are high in animal fat.
Fun fact: If you've ever read a Chinese webnovel- I read a ton, suffering through the bad machine translations online!- you'll know that papaya milk is associated with.. shall we say making one more voluptuous? To make your breasts grow, I've heard you need to use raw, green papaya though. I don't know if it really increases your breast size- I'm too old for it to work on me- and I'm not advocating it for this purpose, just sharing it as trivia!
You would probably need to be an adolescent for it to work - if it does. (Another Chinese herbal remedy is peanut soup, which apparently helps kids grow taller- a friend of mine drank this in his teens and grew 30 cm!)
Note: always consult a medical or healthcare professional before making changes to your diet!
Papaya and fish soup is a traditional recipe served to new mothers in confinement in many parts of Asia as the fruit is believed to stimulate the production of breast milk. According to the SCMP (a Hong Kong newspaper), the most straightforward answer is papaya does NOT stimulate lactation.
Note: unripe papaya can be harmful for pregnant women. Always check with your doctor when pregnant!
- You need a papaya that is almost too ripe- like bananas, this gives the papaya more flavour (and makes it sweeter). It also helps with the texture of the papaya milk
- If your papaya is not ripe enough, the flavour won't be very concentrated, so you will need to use more papaya (I have tested the recipe using up to 4 cups of cubed papaya to 1 cup of milk.) You may also need to add a sweetener as unripe papaya can be slightly tasteless.
- The taste will vary depending on the species of papaya used, so you may want to try it with different types of the orange fruit.
- Fresh Milk
- Low-fat milk tastes like icky dishwater so I prefer full-cream milk.
- You can also use UHT milk
- If you don't add any milk, you'll be making papaya juice!
- Substitutes: if you're lactose intolerant, I have seen people make a drink using papayas and bananas or coconut, almond or oat milk though I've never tried it myself.
- Recipe suggestions include:
- (Optional) Sweetaner
- Honey or condensed milk
- Substitute: xantham gum (which will also help thicken the drink and create a papaya milkshake)
The ingredient ratio is 1:1 (1 cup of cubed papaya to 1 cup of milk) but this is just a guideline. This papaya milk recipe is very flexible, so you can just blend 1 medium papaya (deseeded and skinned, of course) with 1 cup of milk.
Feel free to use more papaya- I have used 4x the amount of frozen papaya to milk and some friends said the papaya taste still wasn't very strong! (Note that the flavour of the papaya is milder when frozen.)
How to tell if ripe
A ripe papaya will have an orangey-red skin - the unripe one is green- and will be slightly soft to the touch. You may also be able to smell the papaya fragrance emitting from the uncut fruit.
Leave a raw papaya out at room temperature to ripen, if necessary.
How to make
This is literally 1 of the easiest drinks you can make at home. It's a 2 or 3 ingredient, 2 -step process!
- Cut the papaya
- Blend with milk- you're done!
- For reference, I use a KItchenAid blender. I normally hate using it as all the liquid leaks out and makes a mess but amazingly, it doesn't when you make papaya milk!
For more easy Asian recipes using 5 or fewer ingredients, click here.
How to store
Unfortunately, papaya milk does not keep well (even in the chiller) as the enzyme in the fruit reacts with milk proteins and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. So make it right before you want to drink it- it really is a breeze as it only tastes 2-3 minutes if you already have cut papaya in the fridge or freezer.
- Not everyone likes the smell and taste of papayas- especially people who didn't grow up in the tropics- so this may not be suitable for a big party! Honestly, whilst I do eat papaya, I don't really like the smell! My Mom loves the fruit though, hence the papaya recipe son this blog!
- You can use frozen papayas. The fruit ripens in a flash, so this is a great way to use up any excess- simply cut into small cubes and freeze till you want to make this drink.
- Cut your fruit small to fit more in the cup- if not there will be more air than papaya!
- Papaya milk traditionally comes with a foamy layer at the top. The longer you blend it for, the frothier it becomes, almost like a papaya milkshake. If you want some variety, you can even add other fruits such as mango and pineapple (or banana to thicken it) for a proper papaya smoothie.
- Papaya grows well in the tropics (I had a tree growing up) so if you live somewhere hot, save the papaya seeds, and plant yourself an edible garden!
It may have been made too long ago- papaya milk needs to be drunk immediately after blending as the enzyme in papaya reacts with the milk to produce a bitter flavour.
This is 1 of the most searched for "papaya and milk" queries. Papaya milk is a traditional Taiwanese street drink, and can also be found in Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong so many people have been consuming papaya and milk together without side effects. However, do note that some people may have allergies, especially those sensitive to latex. If you're uncertain whether you can mix papaya and milk, substitute with a plant-based milk instead.
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Papaya milk (Taiwanese drink)
- Knife and chopping board To cut the papaya
- 1 medium papaya that is very ripe (or 1-4 Cups of papaya, depending on how concentrated you like the flavour to be) Cut into small cubes. You can freeze extra to make papaya milk in future- the recipes works well with frozen fruit.
- 1 Cup milk I like full-cream. Feel free to use UHT milk. See the recipe post for dairy-free substitutes if vegan or allergic to dairy.
- Honey, xantham gum, sugar or condensed milk Optional- you will need it if your papaya isn't very ripe
- Cup the papaya into small cubes
- Add to the blender with the milk.
- Whizz it till it's at the desired frothiness- for a thicker, fuller flavoured drink, add more papaya.
- Taste- if too bland, add a bit of honey, sugar or condensed milk.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
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