This Shan-style salad exemplifies both technical and compositional simplicity. The salad is prepared using a vigorous hand-squeezing technique, known as go:h (โก้) in the Shan language. This blending method, which bruises the ingredients and releases their aromatic moisture, is often used to pair the sharp taste of medicinal fresh herbs – which can carry an immediate bitterness and a certain level of astringency – with earthiness and tartness.
The Shan cuisine is known for its incorporation of fresh herbs and a great appreciation of the medicinal properties found in these greens. In this salad, the pennywort contributes a distinct herbal bitterness, attributed to its asiaticoside content, a triterpenoid compound that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. This bitter note is tempered by the fermented soybean cake, which adds a yeast-like, earthy savoriness due to its rich amino acid profile. The tartness of the tomatoes serves to counterbalance the bitterness, while the shallots also mitigate the bitterness by adding a layer of pungency delivered by their sulfur compounds.
The use of the go:h (โก้) mixing technique ensures that all the diverse flavors in the salad are thoroughly blended, and contributes to a well-rounded flavor profile – presenting a salad that is both intensely flavorful yet remarkably light.
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- 2 cups Asian pennywort (centella asiatica)(ใบบัวบก)
- shallots (หอมแดง) chopped
- 2 large tomatoes (มะเขือเทศ) sliced
- unsalted roasted shelled peanuts (ถั่วลิสงคั่ว) crushed
- sesame oil (น้ำมันงา)
- 3 dried Thai bird’s eye chili (phrik kee noo) (พริกขี้หนูแห้ง) roasted
- 1/2 teaspoon rock salt (เกลือสินเธาว์)
- 1 piece fermented soy bean cake (tua nao)(ถั่วเน่า)
- 1/4 teaspoon Northern style fermented shrimp paste (white kapi)(กะปิกุ้ง)
- 1 /12 tablespoons unsalted roasted shelled peanuts (ถั่วลิสงคั่ว)
- Slice the shallots: Slice the shallots thinly.
- Slice the tomatoes: Dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
- Slice the pennywort: Slice the leaves of the pennywort into thin strips.
- Crush the peanuts: In a mortar and pestle, roughly crush unsalted peanuts that have been shelled and roasted.
Making the seasoning mix
- Grill the soybean cake: Grill one round sheet of fermented soybean cake over an open flame.
- Pound the soybean cake: After grilling, pound the soybean cake in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a powder.
- Mix the seasoning: Combine the soybean cake powder with dried Thai bird’s eye chilies, rock salt, peanuts, and Northern-style fermented shrimp paste.
Assembling the salad
- Mix the main ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the chopped shallots, sliced tomatoes and crushed peanuts.
- Add the pennywort: Add the sliced Asian pennywort to the bowl.
- Add the seasoning paste: Mix in the seasoning paste you prepared earlier.
- Drizzle sesame oil: Add a small amount of sesame oil for extra flavor.
- Apply the hand-squeezing technique: Using your hand, mix and squeeze the ingredients. This technique helps to releases the natural moisture from the ingredients.
- Serve with steamed mackerel: If you like, you can serve the salad with steamed mackel.