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Steak with Papaya Marinade

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What follows is a simple recipe for a steak marinade, concocted after investigating the ingredients of a commercial meat tenderiser. It was discovered that papaya was the active ingredient and voila!

A Little Bit About Papaya

Papaya (Carica papaya) or paw-paw is a pear-shaped fruit with a bright golden-yellow skin, available all year round. It has grown in tropical regions of the world for as long as history has been recorded, although it is believed to be indigenous to the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. The flesh, also golden-yellow, is juicy and silky smooth with a sweet-tart flavour, much like mango. The large central cavity is filled with black seeds and, although edible, they are generally discarded.

Papaya is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and potassium, but the fruit also contains the enzyme 'papain'. This protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzyme is very abundant in the green, unripe papaya and because of this it is used in the meat industry as a very successful tenderiser.

You can usually purchase two types of papaya, Hawaiian 'solo' and Mexican — the difference being that the Hawaiian variety is slightly larger and golden in appearance, the Mexican being smaller with a more pink hue to the skin. When selecting a papaya, ensure it is ripe. Green is mean, yellow is mellow1 — that is, if you prefer your fruit fresh. Papaya is also available in tins as large chunks, usually in its own juice or in a light syrup.


  • 2 x 8oz sirloin or rump steaks2

  • 1 large papaya or 1 x 500g can of tinned papaya

  • 1 tablespoon garlic3

  • 1 tablespoon of barbeque sauce4

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or 1/4 cup if you are adding juice or syrup from tinned papaya

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

  • salt and pepper to taste

All the measurements are approximate amounts. You should use your own discretion.


  1. Take the papaya and slice it in half or in quarters if necessary, and remove the seeds. If you have chosen to use a can of papaya chunks, drain the fruit of the juice or syrup. This can later be added to the marinade.
  2. Place the papaya in a large bowl and mash it up with a blunt object. A potato masher would be perfect for this. If you haven't already removed the skin, do so now.
  3. Take the remaining ingredients and mix together with the papaya in the bowl. This is your marinade.
  4. Pierce several holes in the steak with a knife or fork so that the flavour and the enzyme will penetrate deeply. Don't worry about making too many holes; they will close up on cooking.
  5. Push the now-holed steak into the marinade, ensuring that the mixture soaks into the meat. Try kneading it like dough for two or three minutes.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for no more than two hours — otherwise, the steak will dissolve in the mix too much and not suit most people's tastes.
  7. Once the meat has marinated, remove from the refrigerator and prepare your steak as you would ordinarily. If you feel that the meal may be a little on the tough side, this marinade is perfect for tenderising. The enzyme helps break down the meat so it can be cut easily with just the flat end of a fork!

Serving Suggestion

Try grilling the steaks medium to well done. A general rule of thumb is four to five minutes on each side under a hot to medium heat grill. Serve on a bed of brown rice with a little fresh papaya on the side, as the fruit is a perfect contrast to the spiciness of the cayenne pepper. Accompany this with a bottle of red wine such as a shiraz or merlot or, to really appreciate the taste, water.

Share and enjoy; it's a perfect meal for two!5


Papaya is used in the production of latex, so those people with known latex allergies should proceed with caution when using this recipe.

1At least 60% yellow.2You could use 2 x 12oz steaks; the amount of marinade will be adequate.3This can be varied, according to taste.4This can also be substituted with 'liquid smoke', a mesquite smoke-flavoured sauce.5And a reasonably quick romantic recipe, if you're so inclined.

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