Fish fermentation consists of a simple salt-curing process: mixing or coating a whole fish, sliced fish or minced fish meat with salt and rice husks (or ground roasted rice). The mixture is then allowed to rest and ferment for few months. This fermentation process creates deep, intense umami flavor agents accompanied by a strong stench. It is only with culinary sagacity and skill that cooks are able to harness and direct these powerful flavors within the context of an appetizing dish, and to constrain the odor to an agreeable intensity.
Long Red Chili Pepper
Thai food recipes with Chilies – Long red chili pepper
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.
Thai red curry is a broad term describing any curry that is red in color, although variations exist among the dish’s ingredients or their ratios. Today’s menu features a Thai red curry paste to which we add higher quantities of coriander root and kaffir lime zest; this creates a more aromatic character that will enhance the smokiness of the grilled pork meat and the mild sweetness of the unripe green bananas.
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.
The dish captures the eye with its vivid color – It is beautiful! It is bright! It is happy! - and it fits well within the comfort zone of most westerners. It is not surprising that this dish has made its way to the top of the charts, consistently ranked among the top ten tastiest Thai dishes served abroad.