Tamarind Paste

Thai food recipes with Tamarind – paste

แกงต้มกะทิเนื้อโคเค็ม - In this dish, umami-charged, salted sun-dried beef is gently grilled over charcoal, adding smoke and caramelized elements that emerge in the core of the flavor profile, alongside the umami and the savor of fat. The meat is then cut into bite-size pieces, and slowly braised in thick coconut milk. The coconut fits perfectly onto the triangle of umami, fat and smoke. It brings its own umami and fatty shades, and introduces a rich sweetness that pairs seamlessly with the caramelized character of the grilled beef. The braising also rehydrates the beef and softens it. Bamboo shoots, shallots, galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are added, perfecting the dish with a complementary sweetness, echoing the umami hues, and cutting citrusy notes while creating hidden astringent layers. The dish is finished with fresh chili peppers and hair-thin julienned kaffir lime for a fresh aroma and piquant bite.

แกงหมูเทโพใส่ผักบุ้ง - Thae phoh curry is a spicy and salty Thai red curry with sour-sweet flavor shades. Thae phoh falls into the category of the gaaeng khuaa (แกงคั่ว) style of Thai red curries, as it contains no dry spices except white peppercorns. Instead, smoked dried fish meat is added to the red curry paste to accentuate and widen its umami-smoky savory flavor base.

แกงไตปลาปลาดุกย่างโบราณ - Fermented fish innards curry is a dense curry made of fermented fish innards is dark coffee-brown in color – a salty, fiery hot dish, it grips the palate in an intense umami embrace. As the flagship dish in the repertoire of spicy southern Thai cuisine, it comes in different versions: some are water based; some have a base of coconut cream. But whatever the style, it is a fiercely hot dish that features both dried and fresh chilies.

Considered by some to be the most famous, and the most delicious, dish in Thai cooking, the story of Massaman curry is interwoven with trade, politics and religion in 17th-century Siam. The story is filled with mighty kings, legendary explorers and unsolved mysteries, adding an air of magic and power to this already-heavenly perfumed dish, and thickening the plot of this full bodied, coconut-based curry’s birth.

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.

Yellow sour curry (gaaeng leuuang, แกงเหลือง) is considered a comfort food for the people of Thailand’s southern region. Lavish amounts of fresh turmeric give this spicy, sour and salty curry its rich yellow tint, as well as its earthy aroma and a pleasantly bitter taste. The curry also contains generous portions of the southern dark fermented shrimp paste, resulting in a cloudy, ochre-colored dish.

Southern yellow sour curry is primarily made with saltwater fish, and with either water spinach (phak boong ผักบุ้ง), bamboo shoots (fresh or pickled), green papaya, the stems of the giant elephant ear plant (Colocasia gigantea) (aaw dip อ้อดิบ or thuun ทูน), winter melon (fak khiaao ฟักเขียว) or lotus stems. But versions of the curry that include freshwater fish, shrimp, salted threadfin fish (bplaa goo lao khem ปลากุเลาเค็ม), or even beef or pork belly, are not rare.

This salad recipe is adapted from the book “Maae Khruaa Huaa Bpaa” (แม่ครัวหัวป่าก์), published in 1971 as a memorial for Jao Jaawm Phit (เจ้าจอมพิศว์). Jao Jaawm Phit was the daughter of Thanpuying (Lady) Plean Passakornrawong, who was a pioneer of noble Thai cuisine.

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