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.
Literally, “khanohm jeen yee poon” is translated as “Japanese-style fermented rice noodles”. But there is no evident Japanese motif in the dish that explains its name, and if we were to name the dish ourselves we would probably call it miiang khanohm jeen (เมี่ยงขนมจีน).
Miiang (or miang) is a general term for bite-sized dishes that contain several ingredients, each offering a distinct element of flavor, color or texture to create a perfect mouthful.
We came across this peculiarly-named appetizer in Lady Gleep Mahithaawn’s book “Recipes for Teaching Children and Grandchildren” (หนังสือกับข้าวสอนลูกหลาน), printed for her 72nd birthday celebration on January 7, 1949.
We wondered: Why did Lady Gleep label this hors d’oeuvre recipe as “Japanese-style”?
In seeking an answer to the question, we examined Lady Plean Passakornrawong’s earlier writings (c1908), and found a similar dish with similarly sounding name called khanohm jin bpoon (ขนมจิ่นปุ่น). The dish, spelled somewhat differently, also features Lady Plean’s additions of pickled garlic, young ginger, roasted mung beans and bitter orange (ส้มส้า, sohm saa, som.za), and uses naam phrik laao (น้ำพริกลาว) instead of fried chili jam.
We were excited to come across her footnote comment to the recipe, in which she writes, “The dish khanohm jin bpoon (ขนมจิ่นปุ่น) was formerly called khao bpoon laao (เข้าปุ้นลาว); these days [c1908], the name has changed to khanohm jin yi bpoon (ขนมจิ่นยิ่ปุ่น) probably for reason of progress.”
Lady Plean offers no definitive explanation for the origins of the name, so we will probably never know the real reason behind calling this truly Thai recipe a Japanese-style fermented rice noodle hors d’oeuvre.
However, we decided to take this opportunity to discuss old Thai dishes and their names.
Old Thai dishes names fall into four main groups.
The first group includes dishes with straightforward names that indicate both the preparation method and the main ingredient used. For example:
- Gaaeng phet gai (แกงเผ็ดไก่) – Spicy red curry of chicken
- Gaaeng bpaa bplaa dook (แกงป่าปลาดุก) – Jungle curry of cat fish
- Gaaeng khuaa dtaphaap naam (แกงคั่วตะพาบน้ำ) – Curry of soft-shell turtle
- Naam phrik gabpi (น้ำพริกกะปิ) – Fermented shrimp paste chili sauce
- Yam sohm o:h (ยำส้มโอ) – Pomelo salad
The second group includes dishes with names that give no indication of the dish’s origin, character, ingredients or cooking method.
- Gaaeng bpuh (แกงเปอะ) – Curry of bamboo shoots
- Gaaeng liiang (แกงเลียง) – Curry of mixed vegetables
- Gaaeng buaan (แกงบวน) – Old-style curry
- Gaaeng jao dtao (แกงเจ้าเต่า) – Old-style curry
- Dtohm khlo:hng (ต้มโคล้ง) – Sour soup of smoked dry fish
During the reigns of King Rama VI and VII and as international trade flourished, many new ingredients became available to the cooking masters of those times; these chefs were creative and open-minded, and challenged themselves to invent new recipes with evocative, poetic names:
- Wiwaa pra samoot (วิวาห์พระสมุทร) – The Wedding of the God of the Sea
- Maang faa yiiam haawng (นางฟ้าเยี่ยมห้อง) – The Angel’s Visit
- Naa raai ban thohm sin (นารายณ์บรรทมสินธุ์) – The Reclining Vishnu
- Yam waawn phohng (ยำวรพงษ์) – Woraphong Salad
- Naam phrik na khaawn baan (น้ำพริกนครบาล) – The Cosmopolitan Dipping Sauce
- Mee raat thuut (หมี่ราชทูต) – The King’s Envoy Noodles
The final group includes dishes introduced to the Thai culinary repertoire by direct or indirect foreign influence. In some cases, they are still called by their original name, modified for Thai pronunciation.
- Pha lo:h (พะโล้) – Eggs and pork Chinese five-spice fragrant stew
- Gaaeng garee (แกงกะหรี่) – Yellow curry
- Khaao booree (ข้าวบุหรี่) – Thai-style Persian biryani rice
- Sadteh (สะเต๊ะ) – Satay, Skewered and grilled meat
Our cooking tips for khanohm jeen yee poon
- When cooking the pork belly, add couple of pandan leaves; These will introduce a pleasant aroma to the pork meat.
- Cut the cooked shrimp into lengthwise strips. Cut the pork to a matching size.
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to make fried chili jam
- 15 dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง) approximately 1 cup
- 1 cup crispy fried shallots (หอมแดงเจียว)
- 1 cup crispy fried garlic (กระเทียมเจียว)
- 1/2 cup dried shrimp (กุ้งแห้ง)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 8 tablespoons palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 6 tablespoons fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 4 tablespoons tamarind paste (น้ำมะขามเปียก)
- Cook the pork on medium heat, add pandan leaf for fragrance.
- Slice the pork into bite-size pieces.
- Clean the shrimp, remove their heads, and peel and devein them before cooking until just done. Do not overcook.
- Slice the shrimp lengthwise into thin strips.
- Roast the peanuts, and then coarsely crush with a pestle and mortar.
Making Fried Chili Jam
- De-seed the dry chili, cut into small pieces, rinse and let it dry.
- Deep fry sliced shallots and sliced garlic.
- Deep fry the dry shrimps until crisp.
- Turn off the heat, and heat-fry the dry chilies in the residual oil.
- Fry the chilies until they get crisp and turn dark red. Be careful not to burn them.
- Place some salt in the mortar.
- Add the fried dried chilies.
- Pound the chilies.
- Add fried dry shrimp.
- Pound the chilies and fried dry shrimp together.
- Add the deep fried garlic and shallots.
- Pound everything into a smooth paste.
- Return the paste to the wok, and fry with residual oil left from frying each of the ingredients. Season with palm sugar.
- Season with fish sauce.
- Season with thick tamarind paste.
- Continue frying until the color becomes shiny. Taste and adjust flavors to sour-sweet-salty.
- Add roasted peanuts to the fried chili jam
- Serve. Place a roll of the rice noodles on a piece of green leaf lettuce, add a slice of cucumber, shrimp and pork, dress with the chili jam, sprinkle roasted peanuts and decorate with coriander leaf and a thin julienne of fresh red chili pepper. Squeeze some lime juice on the dish just before eating.