From the kitchens of Varadis Palace, this light meal for the Royal Family is comprised of fermented rice noodles with a deep-red sauce, featuring cooked shrimp and chicken pulled into threads, and seasoned with shrimp broth thickened with shrimp tomalley and chili jam. The chili jam is enriched with cooked shrimp meat, crispy fried garlic and shallots, and roasted peanuts and mung beans. The dish is seasoned to a clear three flavor profile and served with shredded green papaya, banana blossom, lime-soaked pink ginger, cooling shredded cucumber, and hand-picked coriander leaves.
Varadis Palace, on Lan Luang Road, was the residence of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, the son of King Rama V and Jao Jaawm Manda Chum. This dish, bearing the poetic name of “red indigo” or “sang-de-boeuf porcelain”, was created by Prince Damrong’s eldest daughter, Princess Jongjittanom Dissakul (หม่อมเจ้าจงจิตรถนอม ดิศกุล แห่งวังวรดิศ) (1886-1978).
As the oldest daughter of Prince Damrong, Princess Jongjittanom was often trusted with her father’s royal responsibilities when he was away and, due to her culinary skills, she oversaw the kitchens of Varadis Palace. She also managed the kitchen of Bang Khun Phrom Palace, where she was brought up, and assisted her aunt Queen Phra Ratchathewi of King Rama V (สมเด็จพระปิตุจฉาเจ้า สุขุมาลมารศรี พระอัครราชเทวี). Years later, during the Siamese revolution of 1932, she accompanied her father to Penang, where they took refuge. In 1942 she returned to Varadis Palace with her younger sister Princess Manayatrakanya Dissakul.
The red indigo noodles recipe appeared for the first time in the memorial book released for the Princess’ cremation ceremony in 1978, titled Favorite foods of Princess Jongjittanom Dissakul (อาหารของโปรด). Though it is unclear in which period of her life she created the dish, we can assume that it was during the reign of King Rama V or Rama VI and before she left for Penang in 1932.
Chinese porcelain was long appreciated by the Siamese aristocracy and was routinely ordered and manufactured in China exclusively for the Siamese royal court as early as the reign of King Rama II. While the intricately gold-patterned Benjarong porcelain was standard in the dining rooms of the aristocracy, the less expensive Chinese white porcelain with indigo-blue patterns was popular among commoners who would use Benjarong only for auspicious occasions. The decorative patterns were painted in blue with cobalt oxide paint and then fired in high-temperature kilns, a technique deployed for millennia and one that produces fairly uniform results.
Porcelain decorated with red patterns, called “red-indigo” or “sang-de-boeuf”, was much trickier to produce. The porcelain featured a copper oxide-rich glaze but, unlike the indigo version, the red was harder to control and produced inconsistent results. Therefore, red-indigo porcelain was regarded as rare, one-of-a-kind and highly valued – naturally appealing to the taste of the aristocracy. Thus it is clear from the name of the dish, as chosen by Princess Jongjittanom, that she valued it and considered it special, a detail that should be remembered when we cook it today.
Princess Jongjittanom began by cleaning and cooking the shrimp, saving some for the thickening paste and pulling the rest into thin threads. She also cooked a chicken breast and pulls it into threads. For the thickening paste, Princess Jongjittanom pounded roasted mung beans, roasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, and crispy fried garlic into a smooth paste. She enriched the paste by pounding the reserved cooked shrimp meat before mixing it in chili jam, and then diluted the paste with the shrimp cooking liquids. After the paste reached the desired consistency, she seasoned it using fish sauce and lime juice to a sour-salty profile.
Princess Jongjittanom served the dish alongside lettuce, shredded green papaya, banana blossom, cooling slices of cucumber, hand-picked coriander leaves, and thin juliennes of ginger that turned pink after being soaked in lime juice.
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- 150 g chicken breast (อกไก่)
- 150 9 shrimp meat (เนื้อกุ้ง) cooked and shredded
For the shrimp stock:
- shrimp heads (หัวกุ้ง)
- shrimp tomalley (มันกุ้ง)
- 5 pieces shallots (หอมแดง)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (ตะไคร้)
- 4 cups water (น้ำเปล่า)
- 2 tablespoons mung beans (yellow, hulled) (ถั่วทอง) roasted and pounded to powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted roasted shelled peanuts (ถั่วลิสงคั่ว)
- 3 tablespoons crispy fried shallots (หอมแดงเจียว)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons crispy fried garlic (กระเทียมเจียว)
- 4 tablespoon chili jam (น้ำพริกเผา)
- 1/2 cup minced shrimp meat (เนื้อกุ้งสับ) cooked
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1 part lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1/2 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
Prepare the chicken:
- Cook the chicken breast in boiling water.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken and pull the meat into threads while the chicken is still warm. Set aside.
Prepare the shrimp:
- Peel and devein the shrimp; do not discard the shells and heads.
- Squeeze the shrimp tomalley from the heads. Using a fork, scramble the shrimp tomalley to a smooth consistency. Set aside.
- In a pot, bring water to boil; add bruised shallots, and a stalk of lemongrass.
- Briefly and lightly cook the shrimp until only 90% done. Remove the shrimp and set them aside. The shrimp will continue to cook from the residual heat.
- Save two shrimp for the thickening paste, and pull the rest of the cooked shrimp into threads or use a knife to slice them into thin elongated strips. Set aside.
Prepare the shrimp broth:
- Add to the shrimp tomalley to the pot in which the shrimp were cooked.
- Once the tomalley is cooked, add the emptied shrimp heads and the washed shells and cook on low heat only until the shells turn orange. Mix and press them, but do not overcook – otherwise you risk losing the delicate sweet taste of the broth.
- Strain the liquids using a sieve. Press well to squeeze out all the liquids. Set the broth aside.
Prepare the thickening paste:
- Thoroughly wash hulled mung beans and soak them in water for two hours.
- In a wok over very low heat, roast the mung beans while constantly stirring until the beans are cooked and fragrant. Let the mung beans cool to room temperature.
- Transfer the mung beans to a mortar and pestle; grind into a very fine sand-like texture, using the pestle in a round circular motion.
- Add the roasted unsalted peanuts. Pound until the paste is smooth.
- Add the crispy fried garlic and crispy fried shallots; pound until the paste is smooth.
- Add the reserved cooked shrimp and continue to pound until the paste is smooth.
- Transfer the paste into a mixing bowl and add the chili jam.
- Dilute the paste with the shrimp broth until it reaches the desired consistency.
Mixing the sauce:
- Mix the chicken and shrimp threads with the sauce, reserving some for garnish. You can adjust the consistency by adding more of the shrimp broth as needed.
- Season the mixture to a sour-sweet and salty profile using fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar at the ratios indicated.
How to serve the dish:
- Place a portion of the fermented rice noodles in a serving bowl.
- Using a spoon, pour the shrimp and chicken chili jam broth over the noodles.
- Serve the dish alongside lettuce, shredded green papaya, shredded banana blossom, shredded slices of cucumber, hand-picked coriander leaves soaked in water to freshen up, and thin juliennes of ginger that were soaked in lime juice until they turned pink.