This old-fashioned Thai coconut curry dish is a simple expression made with ingredients commonly available to Thais, it features steamed mackerels – the fish that Thai people probably love the best and the stems of the lotus flowers – one of Buddhism’s most recognized motifs.
The fish together with peeled lotus stems are boiled in coconut milk, to which a simple yet very aromatic curry paste, made only of white pepper corns, shallots and fermented shrimp paste is added.
I love this straightforward grilled Thai fish curry in banana leaves because it packs a punch with its aromatic curry mixture that embrace the white and tender fish meat with great flavors. It is a great addition for any Thai meal and very easy to prepare.
Snakehead fish, traditionally caught from irrigation ditches or flooded rice fields, benefits from the aromatic curry paste because it helps to eliminate unpleasant odors which wild caught fishes might acquire from their muddy habitat. Nowadays though, it is commercially farmed and one can safely cook it in various ways with no risk of those undesirable odors.
This dish brings yet another angle to celebrate the essence of Thai cuisine. The Thais dare pairing ingredients, which at first seem to be unmatchable, strong players with opposite characteristics, white turmeric and salted prawns, and guess what? It works beautifully!
The pairing actually has the intention to enhance the differences in flavor and texture, creating a playful dish, both in taste and in presentation. The delicate thin cut white turmeric juliennes with its crunchy-apple like texture matched well with the just made salted prawns chunks which still maintain some of their intrinsic sweetness.
It will not be an overstatement to say that banana trees accompany Thai people from their birth to the afterlife. Starting with the decorative objects made out of banana leaves newborns receive to invite protective spirits, and continues their entire life with the endless uses for banana leaves, trunks and fruits; finally ending with the female spirit ghost, maae praai taanee (แม่พรายตานี), who resides in banana trees and Thai beliefs.
In the Thai language, lon (lohn; หลน) means to simmer. In this ancient style dip, minced pork and fermented shrimp paste, along with smoked-charred dry fish, chilies and other aromatics, are slowly simmered in rich coconut cream to create a deep, multi-layered – yet subtle and silky – dip; a dip which is then lightly seasoned with just palm sugar and fish sauce. The dip is served with an array of fresh and fried vegetables, tempura-like cakes, crispy small fishes or tiny transparent salt-water shrimp. For a dish with so many subtle flavors, there is surprisingly little fuss.
Forest dwellings communities and populations bordering forests relay on the forest as their main food source. They collect herbs and plants, fruits and vegetables, roots and nuts, and hunt for a wide range of game, such as wild boar, dear, small birds and frogs.
Jungle food is quick and simple to prepare and contain only few ingredients. Today we find it on restaurants’ menus and even cook it at home, far away from the jungles.
It is the simple, elegant dishes like this one that bring local flavors to your palate and your table. And, truly, it is almost impossible not to welcome the soothing silkiness of this warm and creamy coconut soup that focuses on the essentials – tastiness.