Maa ouan is a Thai appetizer with clear Chinese characteristics. It resembles the filling of khanohm jeep dumplings (ขนมจีบ), the crab and pork meat fillings of haawy jaaw (ฮ่อยจ๊อ), or the shrimp and pork meat mix of haae geun (แฮ่กึน). Minced pork and shrimp meat are seasoned with garlic, coriander roots, white peppercorns and salt, then mixed with duck egg and a bit of coconut cream, placed in small ceramic cups (thuay dta lai, ถ้วยตะไล), and steamed. It can be served either as a starter, an hors d'oeuvres, or even as a side dish to curries.
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.
Yam sohm choon is a sour green mango salad served with grilled fermented shrimp paste; roughly chopped shallots; sweet pork condiment, deep-fried fluffy grilled catfish and seasoned with fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice and topped with deep-fried dry chilies cut into small pieces.
If you follow Thai movies and TV dramas, you probably remember Sohm Choon, the adorable boy ghost character from the period romance movie Reun Mayura (1997), which was a love story between a beautiful woman and a handsome man living in different periods of time.
Each leaf-wrapped parcel is a kaleidoscope of flavors and richness, textures, aromas and sensations. Fresh green-earthy-chlorophyll-herby-tobacco-peppery wild betel leaves enfold bursts of flavor from nutty roasted peanuts and crispy roasted coconut matches, the umami of savory dry shrimp, pungent-sweet diced shallots, small ginger cubes with a warm bite, sour and bitter unpeeled lime cubes, citrusy perfumed diced bitter orange (som za), naughty whole fresh tiny bird’s eye chilies, and small slices of the sharp and sour dtaling bpling (Averrhoa bilimbi, a relative of the carambola/starfuit). All of which is blended with a thick paste of sweet-sour and salty palm sugar and tamarind sauce.
The miang kham takes every taste bud on a fascinating pleasure trip through sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness, and umami, piquancy, sharpness and spiciness, with an array of textures that slowly subside as the journey ends, leading to a familiar post orgasmic expression, a smile and the desire for more.
Khanohm jeen yee poon is an appetizer consisting of a small roll of fermented rice noodles laid on a green lettuce leaf and topped with a slice of cucumber and cooked shrimp and pork belly, dressed with sour-sweet and salty fried chili jam, sprinkled with roasted peanuts and decorated with coriander leaf and a thin julienne of fresh red chili pepper. A squeeze of fresh lime juice is applied just before eating the dish.
Sweet and sour fruit slices are served with a nutty, sweet-savory peanut sauce condiment that balances the fruits’ natural tartness, and decorated with coriander leaves and julienned fresh long red pepper for a sophisticated finish. The paste-like condiment is typically made from the Three Kings of Thai cuisine (coriander root, garlic and ground white pepper) fried together with chopped shallots, minced pork belly and shrimp meat, along with crushed roasted peanuts, and seasoned with fish sauce [or salt], and palm sugar.
Chef Thapakorn Lertviriyavit (Gorn) brings us a rare perfumed and colorful starter [salad] dish that was rediscovered in a cookbook written by a former governor of Nakhon Ratchasima (พระยานครราชเสนี - สหัด สิงหเสนี), which contained a recipe that called for rose petals, called ‘Yum Gularb' or ‘Rose Petal Salad'. But I'd prefer to rename it, ‘Yum Gleep Kuppatchka'. You will soon understand why....