This recipe would probably change your perception about the term “salad”, maybe because its dressing has a multi layered, curry-like personality, rather than the common sour vinaigrette-like dressing, or maybe because it takes some good few hours to prepare, somewhat longer than simply opening a bag of hydroponic greens.
This salad is the fruit of the dedication of court ladies from aristocratic households, that for centuries perfected and elaborated on the art of cooking through detailed and calculated process, to create sophisticated dishes that are not only delicious but also very healthy and visually pleasing.
These ladies made a very large commitment for small things, and they attended all their time and efforts to make minor things better and getting the small things just right.
It is believed that this dish was introduced to the Siamese royal cuisine in the middle of the seventeenth century by Portuguese traders. Later, along with other egg yolk-based golden sweets like the golden drops (thong yot ทองหยอด), golden flowers (thong yip ทองหยิบ) and golden threads (foi thong ฝอยทอง), these royal desserts were passed to commoners outside the court.
For the marzipan filling I am using, beside the mung beans, both the flesh and the water of fragrant young coconuts. It gives a rich, sweet and almost nutty flavor which works perfectly with the silky texture of the mung beans and the creamy golden egg yolks coating.
Our ancestors, the early humans, had to base their food selection only on their senses. Sweet was energy, umami indicated the presence of proteins and saltiness was the sign for the much needed minerals. Generally, they avoided sour taste because it represented rotten or spoiled food, and bitter was the taste tonics and remedies were made of, and yes, it is now confirmed that bitter gourds are good for you.
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.
The sweet leading sour coconut cream based sauce, enriched and thickened with fragrant freshly roasted peanuts and golden beans are a wonderful coat to dress the sweet shrimp meat. The aromatics are being extracted in every possible way, by roasting, and frying, boiling and reducing, pounding and grounding. All the culinary methods are being fully employed to guarantee an absolute real first class dish.
If you want to start some real Thai cooking going at your home, have the time and access to all the ingredients, than I really want you to try this dish. The building blocks of flavors work so well here and it will open you a great window to see the beginning of what is possible in Thai cuisine.
Here is a rustic sour soup recipe that is very light on ingredients.
The broth is made by boiling dried smoked and lightly grilled freshwater fish. It is seasoned to the sour spectrum of the palate with the use of no more than tamarind. Semi ripe tamarind fruits were used in the early days as tamarind trees were grown in the backyard of almost every Thai home but tamarind water and leaves will just as well work a treat.