This old-fashioned Siamese pork skin salad is adapted from an 1889 rhino skin salad recipe. It features thin glossy slices of cooked pork skin, simmered in rich coconut cream, and mixed with dried shrimp, roasted coconut, sour fruits; it is seasoned with chili jam-based dressing.
Believe it or not, ancient Siamese recipes from the Ayutthaya period up to the 1930s used rhino organs for food and medicine.
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During the Ayutthaya period, rhino horns (naaw raaet ; นอแรด) were documented among Siam’s export products, indicating that Asian rhinos once roamed in Thai forests. Both the Sumatran rhinoceros (grasuu ; กระซู่), which had two horns, and the one-horned Javan rhinoceros (raaet or ramaat; แรด or ระมาด) were ruthlessly hunted to extinction.
As rhinos were considered powerful and noble animals, their horns, blood, skin, livers and feet were utilized in cool-fragrant traditional medicinal concoctions (ยารสหอมเย็น), deployed as an aphrodisiac, a virility enhancer, and a pregnancy supplement. As well, rhino organs were used to treat a wide range of conditions ranging from lethargy and intestinal conditions to thyroid disorders, along with use as an antiserum for hot poisons, and strengthening one’s heart, liver, lungs.
Moreover, evidence shows that King Rama II enjoyed rhinoceros dishes prepared by his consort Princess Kunthon Thipphayawadi (สมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ เจ้าฟ้ากุณฑลทิพยวดี)
In this handwritten note from Prince Prachaksinlapakhom (พระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ กรมหลวงประจักษ์ศิลปาคม), the 25th son of King Rama the IV, sent to the 10th Supreme Patriarch of Siam (สมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ กรมพระยาวชิรญาณวโรรส), the Prince describes how King Rama II’s son, Prince Mahamala (สมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ เจ้าฟ้ามหามาลา กรมพระยาบำราบปรปักษ์), used to prepared a faux rhino liver dish (dtap raaet thiiam ; ตับแรดเทียม), following Princess Kunthon’s recipe for rhino liver.
In 1889, Lady Plean Passakornrawong published in “Bpradtithin Bat Laae Joht Maai Haeht (ประติทินบัตร แล จดหมายเหตุ)”, a monthly journal that featured some of her earliest writings, a recipe for rhino skin salad called yam kho:h nohng neuua (ยำโขนงเนื้อ). Twenty years later, rhino meat had become a rare product in the Siamese markets of the era. Thus, in her 1908 cookbook “Maae Khruaa Huaa Bpaa (MKHP) (ตำราแม่ครัวหัวป่าก์)”, Lady Plean omitted rhinoceros from the list of common game meats and did not offer any rhino-based dishes.
Animal skins are widely used in Siamese cuisine, although these days the skins are mostly pork or buffalo. Skins bring a textural element to the salad; almost flavorless, they contribute a gelatinous and somewhat springy bite. If you are not a fan of the idea of using pork skin, or can’t find it at your local butcher shop, then by all means, go ahead and substitute either pork even chicken meat. Just be sure to change the name of the dish as well.
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To prepare the pork skin
- 1 1/2 cups pork skin (หนังหมู)
- 1/2 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
For the salad
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass (ตะไคร้) sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup dried shrimp pounded to powder (กุ้งแห้งป่น)
- 1/2 cup roasted coconut (มะพร้าวคั่ว)
- 1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด) sliced into hair-thin juliennes
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (ใบผักชี)
- 2 tablespoons green mango (มะม่วงเปรี้ยว) sliced into thin juliennes
- 2 1/2 parts chili jam (น้ำพริกเผา)
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1 part lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1/2 part palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
Prepare the pork skin
- In a pot, bring the coconut cream to a simmer. Add the pork skin and simmer until the coconut cream separates and the skins turn glossy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Prepare the seasoning
- Re-season chili-jam with 1 part fish sauce, 1 part lime juice, and a 1/2 part palm sugar to a sour-salty-sweet flavor profile. Set aside.
Assemble the salad
- Mix julienne-sliced green mango or thinly sliced madan (sour cucumber, มะดัน) with the cooked pork skin.
- Add the dried shrimp powder and roasted coconut; mix them into the salad, and reserve some of both for garnish.
- Add coriander leaves, which were soaked in cold water to freshen up. Reserve some for garnish.
- Add hair-thin julienned kaffir lime leaves. Reserve some for garnish.
- Pour half of the amount of the dressings onto a plate.
- Place the pork skin mixture on the dressing.
- Drizzle the rest of the dressing on top
- Top with the reserved dried shrimp powder, roasted coconut, julienned kaffir lime leaves, and coriander leaves.
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