Let’s Head to the ajb Kitchen – Today’s recipe: Stir Fried Papaya Flowers


Stir-fried papaya flowers
Tumis Bunga Pepaya served with steamed rice and krupuk

I first discovered papaya flowers in the wet market of Pasar Mayestik in South Jakarta. More famous as a fabric market, the food section at Pasar Mayestik captured my attention as I discovered a myriad of traditional fruits and vegetables as well as spices and herbs – many of which are indigenous to Indonesia. I recall seeing little plastic bags containing what appeared to be flower buds, hanging from many of the stalls. What would you do with these, I wondered…

bags of papaya flowers
Inflated bags containing papaya flowers and flower buds

Feeling a little overwhelmed, and with very little grasp of the Indonesian language, I was unable to inquire as to the contents. Fortunately not long after this, my curiosity was satisfied as served up at a function celebrating the diverse cuisine of the Indonesian archipelago was Tumis Bunga Pepaya (Stir-fried Pepaya flowers). I instantly recognised the flower buds and promptly learned that the dish was typical of Manadonese cuisine of North Sulawesi.

Pasar Mayestik
The store holder who sold us our ‘bunga pepaya’ at Pasar Mayestik’s wet market

The flavours of Tumis Bunga Pepaya were unlike anything I’d tasted before with hints of bitterness, saltiness and heat.

A simple dish to make, this recipe celebrates the diverse ingredients available in Indonesia and makes for an interesting and original addition to your Indonesian cooking repertoire.




ajb’s Recipe for Tumis Bunga Pepaya

(Serves 5 persons)


200 grams of papaya leaf buds & flowers (washed, trimmed and wilted flowers removed)
6 shallots, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 Tb coconut cooking oil
4 red and 4 green chilli, thinly sliced (seeds reduced for less heat)
100 grams dried Indonesian anchovy (ikan asin), soaked for 30 mins (minimum), drained then dry fried
3 fresh Indonesian bay leaves, shredded
3 cm galangal, crushed and sliced very finely
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

ingredients for tumis bunga pepaya
The ingredients for today’s recipe (clockwise from bottom left): salt, sugar, coconut oil, galangal, bay leaves, garlic cloves and shallots, green chilli and dried salted fish (ikan asin). Middle: fresh papaya flowers and flower buds
red chillis
The addition of red chilli gives extra colour


1. Rinse salted fish (ikan asin) in fresh water then place in bowl of fresh water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside

ikan asin
Soaking the salted fish
Ikan asin
Draining the salted fish

2. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted water, boil papaya flowers and papaya leaf buds until almost soft, to remove bitterness. Drain and set aside

papaya flowers
Trimmed and checked for any less-than-perfect buds, the star ingredient of this dish is now ready for boiling in salted water

3. Heat the cooking oil and sauté shallots and garlic until soft and fragrant

4. Add chilli, galangal and bay leaves, frying off until wilted

5. Add the papaya flowers and papaya buds, continuously stirring until cooked through (papaya should be almost soft)

6. Season with a pinch or two of salt and sugar, stirring well

7. Fry the drained salted fish and add to papaya flower blend, mixing well. Cook until the storks of papaya are soft

frying ikan asin
Frying off the salted fish until lightly crispy
tumis bunga pepaya
Almost ready to serve!

8. Remove from heat and serve with krupuk (Indonesian crackers) and nasi puti (steamed rice).

Tumis bunga papaya with nasi goring and krupuk
Selamat Makan Semua! (Enjoy your meal everyone!)

Cook’s Notes:

  • Add less chilli if you prefer a more mild flavour
  • Add a dash or two of Indonesia’s favourite sauce, Kecap Manis to add some sweetness to the dish
  • A squeeze of two of jeruk nipis (key lime) will add more zing to this dish
  • The heart of a banana flower, finely sliced and prepared as above, can be substituted for Papaya flowers in this recipe

About Manadonese Cuisine

Manadonese cuisine or Minahasan cuisine is the name given to the traditional cooking of the Minahasan people of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is most commonly known as “Manadonese cuisine”  referring to the city of Manado; the capital of the province. Manadonese cuisine often features a variety of seafood cooked with an abundance of spices and can be very hot, (‘pedas’). The most frequently used spices and secondary ingredients in Manadonese cuisine include lemongrass, citrus leaves, lime juice, chilli, spring onions, shallots, garlic and candlenut.

Due to the influence of the Dutch, Manadonese cuisine also features many European-influenced cakes and pastries.

Indonesia’s renowned Chef Ibu Petty Elliott originates from Manado and is well-known for her modern Indonesian cuisine. Petty attributes her childhood in Manado, where she spent much time in her grandmother’s kitchen, as a significant influence on her style of cuisine. Read ajb’s interview with Petty.


About Papaya Flowers

Papaya plants occur in one of three sexual forms: male, female and hermaphrodite. Male flowers do not have an ovary and therefore do not produce fruit. Instead the male papaya flowers contain stamens bearing pollen that can pollinate a papaya flower with an ovary, causing it to produce a fruit. Male flowers are noticeably different from those of other papaya types as they display large numbers of flowers on branched stalks.

As the flowers of the male papaya plant do not mature into fruit, it is these flowers and flower buds that are generally used in cooking, including today’s recipe.

Other edible flowers of Indonesia

Bunga kecombrang – Found in a variety of Indonesian dishes, Bunga kecombrang is used in different ways throughout the Archipelago. In Bali, the flower and stalk of kecombrang are used in sambal matah. In Javanese dishes, the flower is a common part of pecel, mixed with other vegetables. In Karo in North Sumatra, Bunga kecombrang is used in their popular dish, arsik ikan mas.

kecombrang flowers
Kecombrang flowers, also known as ‘Torch ginger’ flowers belong to the same family as Ginger
Banana flower
A wander around my local neighbourhood and look what I found! A Banana flower ready for harvesting

Bunga pisang – Bunga pisang is the edible heart of the flower of the Banana plant. Bunga pisang is great in salads, soups and stews or cut into fine strips and eaten raw in salads with a hot spicy sambal.

Bunga telang (Butterfly Pea) flower – Indigenous to the Island of Ternate in Eastern Indonesia, Bunga telang contains extremely intense blue pigments which when added to water, produces a deep blue hue. Many health benefits are attributed to Bunga telang including enhancement of memory, reduction of hair loss and as an antidepressant.


Did you find today’s blog post of interest to you? We certainly hope so! For more posts related to today’s recipe, we suggest you check out:

How to Make our Javanese-style Rujak
Meet Ibu Helianti Hilman of artisanal food company – Javara Indigenous Indonesia
The Story of Krupuk and other Indonesian Snack Foods



Words: Jo    Photography: a journey bespoke



  1. says

    Finally!!!! thank you soooo much for this great article …. do you guess how many times I have bought bunga pepaya and….yes after a while trowed away since I was not able to cook???
    So @ajourneybespoke thank you I will try and tell you about the results since I love this raw ingredient!!!!

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Ciao Michela! So nice to hear from you – yes, definitely try the recipe. Let us know what you think. Hope to see you soon. 🙂

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Huey Miin, nice to hear from you 🙂 Have you tried stir-fried papaya flowers before? We would love to know! See you mid-year 🙂

  2. Christine Stevens says

    I enjoyed the privilege of shopping for these ingredients with Jo at Pasar Mayestik. What a fabulously interesting array of goodies on offer at this market. I watched with great interest the preparation and then the process of presentation of this dish. Can’t say I will be able to replicate in Australia. Informative article as usual.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Dear Chris, I really enjoyed taking you and Bill to Pasar Mayestik. I’m glad that you had the opportunity to visit a traditional market in Jakarta and meet some of the vendors. It really was a fun experience! I’ll have another set of adventures ready for your next visit to Indonesia. Safe trip home. Love and best wishes from Jo and Liz 🙂

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