Salad Recipes

In 1833 Prince Mongkut, who later became King Rama IV, found a square stone inscription, known today as “The Ramkhamheang’s Inscription”, believed to be written 541 years earlier, in 1292, by King Ramkhamheang – the third king of The Sukhothai Dynasty (1279-1298).

In this inscription King Ramkhamheang tells the story of the Sukhothai regime; He includes details of the systems of law and describes how he ruled the people wisely, in a kind and personal, like father and son manner. King Ramkhamheang – (who was an outstanding warrior, statesman, scholar and diplomat who expanded his control from the Khmer kingdom of Angkor in the east, through much of what is today central and southern Thailand, to northern parts of Laos and Burma) – gives a picture of his kingdom as idyllic and free of constrains.

The dish was introduced to me by a street vendor in forsaken part of town some twenty years ago. Auntie Yai was a true character. She was wearing intensive makeup and I still remember her talkative hilarious manner. I and other customers waiting in line were regularly subjected to nonstop “interrogations” or “interviews”. I must admit I enjoyed the peek into other people lives while waiting over an hour for her mouth watering curried rice croquettes. I loved how the pungent, vibrant swirl of ginger was setting off the fermented pork sourness just perfectly, how the nutty crunch of those peanuts was balanced by the vivid tone of fresh herbs.

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.

Bangkok’s markets are busy from dawn until dusk, sometime even stay open when most of the city is asleep. Normally, the traffic of shoppers and crowds of office workers hurrying their way masks the busy stretch of shops and food stalls, making it difficult to pay close attention to details.

Earlier this year, however, a strange silence had fallen on the city, civil unrest brought life in the city of angels to an eerie standstill, Bangkokians elected to stay home, and shops closed their doors.

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.

The first Thai restaurant in London was opened during the 1960’s by HRH Princess Jurairat Nasiriman (1910-2000) (พระเจ้าวรวงศ์เธอ พระองค์เจ้าจุไรรัตนศิริมาน), the granddaughter of HRH King Mongkut (Rama IV). Princess Jurairat chose to offer this salad on the menu and named it “Salad of Thai Milkweed Flower”. (Other names: Cowslip creeper, Telosma Cordata).

This fresh and tasty salad is so vibrant and easy for us to enjoy, it takes in the very basic flavors, sweet, salty, hot and sour and wrap them in a creamy coat of reduced coconut cream. The milkweed flower buds retain their crunchiness and their pleasant fragrance with only a gentle and very quick blanching in sweet boiling water.

Here is a wonderful spicy Nam Tok recipe; you may as well go for it! A crispy fried fish dressed with plenty of fresh herbs, plenty of chilies than some lime juice and fragrant ground roasted rice as a textural binder. It is an unpretentious dish, that is just about what is around and what is available; there is some sort of truth about it, which makes it so wonderful.

If you are trying your first Issan style recipe, than this is the one to go for. It is not complicated to prepare and will show off beautifully the hearty and rustic flavors of Issan.

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