A dish, like a smell or a color can be so evocative in their place or time. This dish always flys me back to the food stalls of Chiang Mai with its vivid color and tartly savor.
In this fast moving world, it is good sometime to pause for a moment, and to have a dish that emphasis relaxation, and allows you to enjoy a feast of textures and colors, because it is never eaten alone. It is served with a rich plate of accompanying vegetables pleasantly arranged, and with a group of good friends; all sharing the centrally placed bowl of the shiny red relish.
Soybeans have been an integral part of Asian cooking since ancient times. The Chinese refined and disseminated the secrets of soybeans fermentation into savory food flavoring agents. From the Natto in Japan to the Indonesian Tempeh, Soybeans are in the roots of Asian cuisine.
In the northern parts of Thailand, the home of the gentle Lanna cuisine, we can find yet another type of fermented soybeans product called Tua Nao.
The food culture of Phuket, like its architecture, blends western colonial, Hokkien Chinese with Muslim and Thai motifs. The Hokkien Chinese who arrived from Singapore and Malaysia introduced Muu Haawng to the repertoire of the Phuket Thai style cuisine (bpoon dteh ; ปุ้นเต่).
It is very similar to the Teochew style Phalo, but here there is no use of Chinese five-spice powder, instead it is relaying only on soy sauce, sugar, garlic and black pepper to create a thick gravy that color the pork with a caramelized shiny red and tempting sheen.
Here is a wonderful spicy Nam Tok recipe; you may as well go for it! A crispy fried fish dressed with plenty of fresh herbs, plenty of chilies than some lime juice and fragrant ground roasted rice as a textural binder. It is an unpretentious dish, that is just about what is around and what is available; there is some sort of truth about it, which makes it so wonderful.
If you are trying your first Issan style recipe, than this is the one to go for. It is not complicated to prepare and will show off beautifully the hearty and rustic flavors of Issan.
Ground roasted rice is often used in Thai Northern Eastern style cooking (Issan) in spicy salads as an aromatic and textural agent. Offering an unmistakably hearty and rustic bite to the food.
You can find it in almost any Asian supermarket and it is very simple to prepare. I do hope that you will overcome the temptation of reaching your hands to the supermarket shelve and prepare your own.
The whole point of salting fish as a preserving method to the Thais goes back way before refrigeration and that is why slated fish is so deeply rooted in the Thai cuisine.
The salting process produces a new ingredient that is different and equally good to the original. The method is simple, the clean fresh fishes are rubbed with plenty of salt and let to dry in the sun.
Best quality fish is the sole factor of a great final product. That is why I was so excited the other day to find at the market a rare offering of salted queenfish (ปลาสละเค็ม ; bplaa sala khem). These fast predators are not commercially fished. Praised for their superb quality meat this game fish offers a challenge to catch both to the fisherman and the foodie alike.
Curry shops are for the busy businessman and the hungry traveler a real must. They offer a selection of the most attractive and appetizing food you can think of. This is the Thai version of fast food, even faster than in the west.
So here is a wonderful little lunchtime dish that goes well with yet another bowl of steamy hot rice, that comes of directly from the curry shops common repertoire.