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.
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.
Here is a summer dish that showcases the wisdom of creating complex flavors through simplicity. Using just lightly salted semi-dried snakehead fish, golden deep-fried shallots and a sweetening agent (either sugar or coconut), we create a condiment that partners perfectly with pieces of sweet juicy watermelon.
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.
Unripe rice snack – “Khao Mao Mee” (ข้าวเม่าหมี่ ) also known as “Khao Mao Song Kreuang” (ข้าวเม่าทรงเครื่อง) or by it’s royal name “Khanom Khao Mao Rang” (ขนมข้าวเม่าราง) is a delicious snack. It makes an unusual use of the unripe rice grains, which are normally used for desserts making. The following recipe describes an ancient and hard to find version of it. These days, there is a tendency to add other ingredients like peanuts or to deep fry the unripe rice grains until fluffy and crispy.
If you are looking for a quick and tasty snack try this one. Like a beautiful jewel studded with gems, the yellow corn kernels are peeking through the golden crust… a festive choice for a party, afternoon brunch, or for a buffet table. The sweetness of the corn is beautifully enhanced by the aromatic seasoning; it is truly irresistible that warrants this caveat: double the recipe.