Papaya and Coconut Maki Rolls

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

Dried fruit leather is an old South African tradition – like most cultures, made in order to preserve excess fruit for later use. Papaya fruit leather is easy and simple to make. However, made at home without any preservatives, the colour does deepen a little over time. As we live in times where the food system gives us access to papayas year-round, it is probably no longer necessary to make fruit leather for the sparse months but one can make it when you need it. However, often fruits are somewhat cheaper when in season so one could make fruit leather to keep for later.

Maki or makiushi (also sometimes referred to as California rolls) are in most instances a cylinder of rice wrapped in nori. In fact, these papaya and coconut makis should rather be referred to as hosomaki, which is the correct name for a maki made with a single ingredient (in this case papaya) wrapped in rice and nori. But here we have gone totally rogue – this little after dinner coffee snack has nothing to do with sushi aside from looking like a maki roll. The nori is replaced by papaya leather, the fish replaced by fresh papaya and the sushi rice is replaced by coconut ice. Apart from making the papaya leather beforehand, these are simple healthy snacks that would make anyone smile. Toasting some of the coconut provides additional taste and depth. Please feel free to toast all of it, in which case the coconut ice will be less white and traditional, but with a much deeper, more intense flavour.

Ingredients for around 16 maki rolls:

  • 2 ripe papayas for the papaya leather
  • ½ firm ripe but not soft papaya, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1 cm x 1 cm strips
  • 40 g desiccated coconut, dry toasted
  • 80 g desiccated coconut
  • 130 g condensed milk


For the papaya leather, drain the pulp of one or two ripe liquidized papayas in a sieve lined with muslin over two days. Thereafter whisk it up and then spread the pulp evenly over two silicone mats and dry at 80°C in the oven for two or three hours until the leather easily pulls away from the silicone mats.

Mix together the two types of coconut and condensed milk. Cut the papaya leather to resemble two or three 15 cm squares. Layer some coconut ice over the square, pressing it down to form an even layer around 1 cm thick. Leave a little open edge on one side of the square and place a line of fresh papaya sticks down the coconut ice on the opposite edge. Roll the sushi from the side with the line of papaya sticks. When you get to the end, lightly brush the open edge of papaya leather with some water so that that thin strip of papaya will adhere to the rolled-up part. Compress the sushi roll into a neat even roll. Use a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap to help with the rolling process. Slice the papaya sushi into 2 cm thick slices with an extremely sharp knife, applying a firm definite cut – avoid squashing your maki roll out of shape.