If we could strip away the spices, the seasonings, the vegetables and the herbs from savory dishes we could uncover their naked flavor profile core. There, we would encounter a strong savory-umami, sometimes coupled with other basic elements of smoke and fat. This flavor core is, for us humans, the sought-after taste of protein; our first sip of mother’s milk, and the primal experience of burned game meat on the fire.
Today we would like to highlight a powerhouse for umami creation: the fermentation process. We will focus on fermented fish innards from southern Thailand (dtai bpla ไตปลา), one of about a dozen fermented products used in the country. We will show you how chefs for the capital’s elite, as early as or, before the reign of King Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai (Rama II, 1767-1824), harnessed its wild nature and created a dish similar to what we present today – a salad with infused fermented fish innards dressing.
Catfish are not too fussy about the waters in which they swim. They can even flourish in stagnant waters and flooded rice fields. Farmed widely, Catfish is an inexpensive, accessible, nutritional and delicious food source.
Grilled catfish is a delicacy, the yellowish mildly fatty flesh goes well with sticky rice and chili-limejuice-fish-sauce sauce, or sweet fish-sauce dip and fresh vegetables.
Many recipes call for coriander root, garlic, and white peppercorns paste. While I have seen commercial preparations available, there is really no excuse not to use freshly made paste when needed. Successful cooking has a lot to do with the attention one gives to the flavor base and these three kings of Thai cooking should be taken very seriously.
Ajat is extremely simple yet elegant, and when you include it side to deep-fry or oily dishes, it is a knockout. Ajat is commonly served alongside Satay, Murtabak, Fish cakes and other deep fried snacks. Its sweet and sour syrup helps to mellow down the oily richness. You can prepare the syrup ahead of time and assemble it just before serving.
Relishes are perhaps one of the most ancient forms of Thai food. Served with rice and some fresh vegetables normally picked from fences around the house. However, Thai simplicity is never blend.
nam phrik phao is designed to store well, almost indefinitely, and The Thai touch of ancient wisdom guarantees that besides being nutritionally balanced it is very delicious and clearly possesses its own unique personality.
Mung beans, or green beans as they are known in Thailand, are ovoid in shape, and green in color.
They are generally eaten either whole (with or without skins), as bean sprouts, or used in cooking – mostly in Thai desserts. Mung beans are green with the husk and called in Thai thuaa khiaao (ถั่วเขียว), when dehusked they are light yellow in color and referred in Thai as Golden Beans (thuaa thaawng ; ถั่วทอง)
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.