For someone who has not grown up in Bengal, coming across plastic chutney on a wedding lunch menu may be startling—who would want to eat that! But this used to be (and still is) a fixture on catered menus, especially when fruits for making other chutneys were not in season. You have green mango chutney for summer, tomato amshotto chutney for winter, pineapple or kool'er chutney for spring—but for the months of monsoon through autumn there aren't that many suitable fruits. It must have been a smart caterer who thought of using the bland papaya to make a chutney, and then gave it a shocking (almost clickbait) name—"plastic chutney"— because of how glossy and translucent the papaya slices appear once cooked in the sugar syrup! Not our favourite chutney, but it definitely is interesting. Give it a try because it is easy and quick.
- 200 g papaya
- 15 g cashew nuts
- 200 g sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 20 g lime juice
- 250 g water
- Peel the papaya, scoop out the seeds, and slice along the cross-section into 2-mm slices. We prefer using a slicer to do this so that the thickness is uniform and they cook evenly. This is specially important if you want to achieve the plastic-like glossy transparent look of this chutney.
- Divide the annular (round) slices radially into eight squares.
- In a korai or wok add all of the sugar and the salt along with the water. Turn on the heat and let the sugar dissolve.
- Once the sugar dissolves and the syrup starts boiling, inspect it for any cloudiness or turbidity. If it is not clouded, move to the next step. The cloudiness is caused by impurities in the sugar. To get a clear sugar syrup, add a tablespoon of milk and stir. You will notice that scum will float to the top. Using a strainer remove the scum from the syrup.
- Add the sliced papaya into the syrup, cover with a lid, and boil to cook the papaya.
- Once the papaya is cooked—about 10 minutes—remove the lid and add the cashews.
- Squeeze fresh lime into the chutney.
- Let it cook until some of the water evaporates and the chutney thickens a little. Remember that this will thicken further when it cools. So, when it is a little more watery than you want your final chutney to be, turn off the stove and let it cool. Once cool transfer to an airtight bowl and keep it in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.