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.
For the khanohm jeen saao naam version that we present today, we turn again to the writing of Thanpuying (Lady) Gleep Mahithaawn for her unique take on the dish. Her version is quite similar to the common recipe encountered nowadays, but Lady Gleep enhances it with more ingredients, elevating the dish yet another notch to the level of a majestic masterpiece.
Deceptively simple, the recipe for battered, deep-fried unripe rice and grated coconut banana rolls (khao mao thaawt, ข้าวเม่าทอด) is actually quite challenging to master. Like so many Thai dessert recipes, this seemingly straightforward dish has a complex character.
A good practice for the enthusiastic Thai food lover is to use freshly squeezed coconut cream when possible. The taste and depth of flavors will overcome any dish created with canned cream. Squeezing your own cream is very simple.
Select a coconut that feels heavy to its size. That is a sign the there more flesh inside and it would yield more cream.