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Gỏi khô bò (beef jerky salad) with green papaya or spaghetti squash

Yes, I know the proper name for the dish is gỏi đu đủ khô bò (green papaya salad with beef jerky). But it didn’t feel right to call it that after I played with the dish by using spaghetti squash instead of green papaya as the core ingredient.

Set up for making 2 variations of gỏi (salad):

ingredients for 2 types of beef jerky salad

Top row, from left: beef jerky soaked in lime juice, fresh basil leaves and julienned carrots. Bottom row, from left: spaghetti squash, green papaya

Green papaya was thinly julienned and soaked in water mixed with lime juice to avoid discoloration. Spaghetti squash was cut crosswise and boiled for ~20 minutes. The spaghetti strands were easily removed with a fork. I tried not to overcook the squash to preserve the crunchiness of the strands.

Dressing for salad: kecap manis, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar to taste. The dressing for this salad should be black and pretty viscous (hence the use of kecap manis and hoisin sauce instead of soy sauce, which has no viscosity). Like all Vietnamese gỏi, the dressing should be a little sour, a little sweet and a little salty.

Roughly chop basil leaves and mix them with green papaya (or spaghetti squash), beef jerky and carrot. Mix well with dressing.

Green papaya salad

green papaya salad with beef jerky

Spaghetti squash salad

spaghetti squash salad with beef jerky

Spaghetti squash salad was a lot crunchier than green papaya salad, which was nice. The squash was sweeter and soaked up more dressing than green papaya. The only thing I didn’t like about the squash salad was that the squash lost its golden color and became brown once the dressing was mixed in. I personally liked the squash version of the salad more (also because spaghetti squash came already julienned while it took some time to cut up enough green papaya). 2 friends who tasted those 2 salads were split on which one they prefer.

Substituting spaghetti squash when the recipe calls for julienned green papaya is actually a trick devised by early Vietnamese refugees who had to make do without Vietnamese ingredients. Like the canned anchovies mam nem, the squash substitution revealed new facets and possibilities in the traditional recipe and so established itself as a relevant and viable variant even when green papaya became readily available wherever enough Vietnamese-Americans congregate. We’re excited to uncover more of these immigrant chic recipes as they represent a very organic fusion cuisine and we hope to discover on our own new possibilities in Vietnamese cooking using ingredients that were not available to our forebears.


  1. I am surprised that the spaghetti squash was crunchier than green papaya!

    • yep, definitely crunchier as long as you don’t overcook the squash :) ….well, you can see Lamp’s post on how to prevent overcooking spaghetti squash using lime water.

  2. simona_truong says:

    can you share the goi du du salad dressing? you did mention of the salad but how much the measurement of dressing i should make up? any chance you can share? thank you so much, also i really love blog and the food you share with us.

    • Hi Simona,

      Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. The post didn’t have the specific measurements for the dressing not because we were holding back on the recipe. It is simply because we tend to estimate when we cook. I constantly taste and adjust when I make salad dressing and marinade, so it’s always so difficult to figure out measurements for different ingredients. I’ll try to make this salad again soon and will be mindful of the recipe so we can post the specific measurements.

  3. simona_truong says:

    hi bird:

    thank you for your time to responded, and i am so happy that you read my comment. if i have a chance to share some recipe or website to you that you can do more in your cooking. if you don’t mind i respond to you. a little appreciated to you for an answer of my a mail. hopefully i will do my better. once again thank you so much!!!!!!!

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