Royal Thai Cuisine

กุ้งแนม” หรือ “กุ้งซ่อนกลิ่น – Goong naaem (goong saawn glin) according to the 1908 recipe in Lady Plean Passakornrawong’s “Maae Khruaa Huaa Bpaa (ตำราแม่ครัวหัวป่าก์)” cookbook. Flaky acid-cooked shrimp and the pork fat, along with thinly sliced roasted peanuts and very small unpeeled diced bitter orange (ส้มซ่า som saa), plus paper-thin slices of pickled garlic and julienned fresh red long chili peppers are mixed and seasoned with shrimp tomalley dressing. It is served in wrapped squares, using iceberg lettuce and young thaawng laang leaves.

แกงต้มกะทิเนื้อโคเค็ม – In this dish, umami-charged, salted sun-dried beef is gently grilled over charcoal, adding smoke and caramelized elements that emerge in the core of the flavor profile, alongside the umami and the savor of fat. The meat is then cut into bite-size pieces, and slowly braised in thick coconut milk. The coconut fits perfectly onto the triangle of umami, fat and smoke. It brings its own umami and fatty shades, and introduces a rich sweetness that pairs seamlessly with the caramelized character of the grilled beef. The braising also rehydrates the beef and softens it. Bamboo shoots, shallots, galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are added, perfecting the dish with a complementary sweetness, echoing the umami hues, and cutting citrusy notes while creating hidden astringent layers. The dish is finished with fresh chili peppers and hair-thin julienned kaffir lime for a fresh aroma and piquant bite.

แกงไตปลาปลาดุกย่างโบราณ – Fermented fish innards curry is a dense curry made of fermented fish innards is dark coffee-brown in color – a salty, fiery hot dish, it grips the palate in an intense umami embrace. As the flagship dish in the repertoire of spicy southern Thai cuisine, it comes in different versions: some are water based; some have a base of coconut cream. But whatever the style, it is a fiercely hot dish that features both dried and fresh chilies.

Studded with small green peppercorns that burst with a mild peppery pungency, this relish is not as spicy as one might expect from a Thai chili relish – nor does the sour taste serve as a noticeable flavor pillar. Instead, a warmer and softer peppery bite, coupled with the aroma of young pepper, delivers a complex kick. The peppercorns, together with the flavorful yellow chilies, wrap the pork’s natural umami and fatty characters and enhance its natural sweetness; this sweetness, despite being placed far in the back and only appearing at the end of each bite, is nicely layered by the use of shrimp meat and palm sugar.

Fish fermentation consists of a simple salt-curing process: mixing or coating a whole fish, sliced fish or minced fish meat with salt and rice husks (or ground roasted rice). The mixture is then allowed to rest and ferment for few months. This fermentation process creates deep, intense umami flavor agents accompanied by a strong stench. It is only with culinary sagacity and skill that cooks are able to harness and direct these powerful flavors within the context of an appetizing dish, and to constrain the odor to an agreeable intensity.

Known as Khanohm faawy (ขนมฝอย) or Khanohm handtraa, this sweet or savory packet can be a dessert or a snack. The dessert has a sweet filling of silky mung beans and a coconut marzipan-like paste, while the snack’s savory filling consists of shrimp and pork minced and seasoned with garlic, coriander root and white peppercorns. Each is theatrically wrapped in a striking nest of skillfully crafted duck’s egg thread.

Considered by some to be the most famous, and the most delicious, dish in Thai cooking, the story of Massaman curry is interwoven with trade, politics and religion in 17th-century Siam. The story is filled with mighty kings, legendary explorers and unsolved mysteries, adding an air of magic and power to this already-heavenly perfumed dish, and thickening the plot of this full bodied, coconut-based curry’s birth.

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