Papaya and Braaied Chicken Nachos

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

I was somewhat cautious about the Mexican dish, nachos, because I had not made it before. I found it difficult to imagine that a plate of maize crisps, or as we call them in South Africa, chips, covered with melted cheese and other bits can actually be quite delicious and, yes, addictive. This is in fact a complete meal, with plenty of fresh vegetables, beans that always kick up the nutrient factor, and in this instance, the mellow sweetness of papaya to provide a counterpoint. In combination with braaied chicken breasts, it works perfectly well, so one can easily over-indulge. For the papaya Pico de Gallo (a type of salsa commonly used in Mexican cuisine) I cut the papaya into small cubes, but it might be better to keep the cubes larger, so that the papaya’s sweetness features more prominently. The addition of chicken braaied on open fire provides a rich smokiness that melds well with all the remaining ingredients.

Refried beans may be slightly foreign to most South Africans. Don’t be fooled by the name – it is in fact just mashed up cooked beans (of whatever type) with cooked onions and flavourings. In this recipe, I used tinned beans for ease, but one can most certainly make them from scratch by soaking and cooking dried beans. Some recipes advocate mashing the beans to a smooth paste, but in this recipe I left some of the beans purposefully whole or partially broken for interest.

Research reveals that nachos is a truly Mexican dish, and not Tex-Mex like many people would have guessed – in fact nachos are the epitome of comida fronteriza, or food from the borderlands. People are often confused because the tortilla crisps that form the base of the dish are also referred to as nachos.

Ingredients for 6 portions:

For the papaya Pico de Gallo:
3 ripe tomatoes, cut into small dice
½ red onion, finely diced
2 or more (depending on taste) green or red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
1/3 of a ripe, but firm papaya, cut into medium dice
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
7,5 ml (½ tablespoon) salt
60 ml fresh lime juice
15 g fresh coriander, finely sliced

For the refried beans:
60 ml olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
Pinch (or more depending on taste) chilli powder
7,5 ml (½ tablespoon) whole cumin, coarsely ground
1 tin (400 g net mass) red beans, drained (reserve half of the brine liquid)
50 ml fresh lime juice

4 chicken breasts, coated with olive oil and salt and pepper, gently braaied on the fire until cooked but not dry, shredded with two forks
2 x 200 g packets nachos or tortilla crisps, any flavour
250 g white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
200 ml sour cream, whipped until airy
2 avocado pears, scooped with a spoon into rough chunks, or made into your favourite guacamole
10 g fresh coriander for garnish

5 or 6 pickled chillies, optional, sliced as garnish
Wedges of fresh lime for garnish


Mix all the ingredients for the Pico de Gallo together – set aside until required.

To make the refried beans, warm the olive oil in a medium pot. Fry the onions and garlic on medium heat until they are fully cooked and translucent – stirring all the time. Add the seasonings and fry for another minute or so. Add the beans and brine water and cook on high heat smashing the beans as much or as little as you wish. Cook for a few minutes, but do not dry out the mixture too much. Add the lime juice.

Place all the crisps in one spread out layer on an oven-proof platter. Warm them in the oven for around 10 minutes at 160 °C until they are fragrant. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and return to a slightly hotter oven (180 °C) for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely melted. Immediately dollop over the refried bean mix, followed by the Pico de Gallo (keep some of the collected vegetable water back), the shredded chicken, the scoops (or guacamole) of avocado, dollops of whipped sour cream and finally the fresh coriander. Garnish with any of the optional additions and enjoy.