This is a recipe for a Thai snack or an appetizer recipe; we decided to write about before it is totally transformed by the hands of Thai chefs, as well as the forces of time.
Sweet and sour fruit slices are served with a nutty, sweet-savory 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.
The Thai spelling varies. It can be written either as ม้าฮ่อ [the common way] or as “ม้าห้อ”.
The names Maa haaw (when using pineapple) or Mohng gaawn khaap gaaeo (when using sweet orange or tangerine) offer no clues as to the origin.
We also weren’t able to find any other similar Thai recipes that utilize this particular combination of ingredients, other than steamed sako dumplings filled with pork (สาคูไส้หมู saa khuu sai muu) which use a similar filling with only the addition of salted daikon radish.
The Mon people, an ethnic group of Burma, serve a similar snack in their ceremonies or when they make merits. They use sour fruit, and top them with a similar condiment made from frying together pork, shrimp, salt, ground chilies, roasted coconut and peanuts.
Thus, we tend to believe that this dish was introduced to the Thai culinary repertoire by the Mon people of Burma.
This topping was called phrik ga gleuua (พริกกะเกลือ)
Nowadays, the term phrik ga gleuua refers to a simple, dry mix of salt and chili offered by every fruit vendor as a dipping condiment for the fruit. However, in the old days, grated and roasted coconut was also used in phrik ga gleuua.
In the memorial book for Thanpuying (Lady) Gleep Mahithaawn (1876-1961) (ท่านผู้หญิงกลีบมหิธร), the wife of Jao Praya Mahithaawn, who served as the justice minister in the 1930s, we found a recipe for Maa haaw that calls for minced pork belly, garlic, coriander roots and white peppercorns, seasoned with ground coriander and cumin seeds before being deep-fried into small, round balls.
- Slice the fruits into bite-size pieces. Use your skills to create any shape you wish; if time permits, you can also carve the fruits into any shape you desire.
- Use a pestle and mortar to roughly crush the peanuts. Do not be tempted to use a food processor – it will ruin the final texture of the paste.
- You can introduce extra complexity to the paste by adding honey or even a squeeze of bitter orange (som.za ส้มซ่า) for an aromatic tangy touch that will blend nicely with the fruit’s acidity.
- Suitable fruits are pineapple, sweet orange, tangerine, pomelo, sweet mango, star fruit, Malay apple, heirloom Ampawa lychee or even strawberries.
(Did you know: Chinese merchants brought heirloom lychees from China and began growing them in the Ampawa district of Samut Songkhram province some 200 years ago.)
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- 1 cup pork belly (เนื้อหมูสามชั้น) minced
- 1/2 cup minced shrimp meat (เนื้อกุ้งสับ) minced
- 2 tablespoons shrimp tomalley (มันกุ้ง)
- 1/2 cup unsalted roasted shelled peanuts (ถั่วลิสงคั่ว) crushed
- 1 tablespoon coriander roots (รากผักชี)
- 1 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย)
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorns (พริกไทย)
- 3 tablespoons shallots (หอมแดง) sliced finely
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 3/4 cup palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 3 tablespoon neutral tasting cooking oil (น้ำมันพืช)
- Sweet Orange or Tangerine
- Malacca Queen Pineapple or any other Pineapple variety (สัปปะรด)
- pomelo (ส้มโอ) sweet mango, star fruit, Malay apple, heirloom Ampawa lychee, strawberries, or any other sour-sweet fruit
- Prepare coriander root, Thai garlic, white peppercorns and finely chopped shallots.
- Put salt in pestle and mortar.
- Add coriander root, Thai garlic, and white peppercorns.
- Pound to a fine paste.
- Set the Three Kings paste aside.
- Using a knife mince the pork belly, and set aside.
- Remove the shrimp heads and collect the tomalley.
- Peel the shrimp and crash them with a heavy knife. It will improve their texture.
- Using a knife mince the shrimp.
- Set aside the pork, shrimp and tomalley.
- Using a pestle and mortar roughly crush the peanuts.
- In a brass wok, fry the Three Kings paste in oil until fragrant.
- Add minced shallots.
- Fry over medium-low heat until the shallots become transparent.
- Add the minced pork belly and fry until cooked.
- Add the shrimp meat and tomalley.
- Keep frying until the shrimp are cooked.
- Add palm sugar.
- Add salt.
- Add fish sauce.
- Cook the mixture over low heat with constant stirring.
- When the mixture thickens, add the crushed peanuts.
- Keep stirring over low heat.
- The mixture is ready when it thickens and becomes malleable.
- Pick coriander leaves and keep them in cold water.
- Cut the long red chili pepper into thin slices or juliennes.
Cutting the Orange
- Using a sharp knife cut a straight line to remove the seeds from the orange slices.
- Make an incision on the back of the orange slice.
- The final shape.
- Peel the pineapple and shape it into a square block.
- Cut it into 0.5cm thick slices.
- Cut each slice into equilateral triangles.
- Peel the pineapple and shape it into a square block, divide into two halves as shown in the picture.
- Divide each slice again as shown in the picture.
- Lay the pineapple slice on the cutting board, use a knife to cut a long incision under the tip and round down toward the end.
- You will achieve a spoon-like shape pineapple slices.