Mrs. Paan Nanthaathiwat (คุณปาน นันทาถิวัฒน์) (1893-1955) was known for her kitchen skills. She often cooked for friends and family, spending time in the kitchen with her best friend, Mrs. Yim Pichaiyat Bunnag (คุณยิ้ม พิชัยญาติ บุนนาค (1892-1976). Thus, it was not a surprise when in 1953 she authored a recipe book as part of her merit offering on her 60th birthday. Sadly, Mrs. Paan passed away a year later and the publication, titled Hoong Khaao Dtohm Gaaeng (หุ้งข้าวต้มแกง), was later printed as a memorial book for her funeral. In 1977, the volume was reprinted for the funeral of her best friend, Mrs. Yim.
It is unclear why Mrs. Paan named this citrusy, sour, and salty seasoned rice dish after Lord Shiva, calling it “Phra Suli (พระศุลี ; phra soolee)”. Yet I believe the name of the dish is meant to evoke the elegance and delicacy of the deity rather than to reference cultural authenticity or tradition.
The dish’s name may have originated from the combination of various ingredients, each with a distinct texture – soft and fluffy cooked jasmine rice, sandy roasted ground rice, bitter-orange peel, cooked shrimp, soft and greasy cooked firm pork fat, and chewy thin slices of pork skin. This grouping could possibly symbolize Shiva’s multifaceted nature and divine identities. Furthermore, Shiva’s role as the cosmic dancer Nataraja, who brings balance and harmony to the universe through the rhythmic motion of his dance, is reflected in the playfulness of the sour leading, salty and savory flavor profile, with fresh garlic and citrus notes.
To prepare this dish, jasmine rice is cooked and seasoned with a clear, salad-like dressing made of bitter orange juice, lime juice, fish sauce and granulated sugar. The white sugar keeps the dressing light and transparent and the rice grains unburdened, allowing the rice to serve as a warm and comforting base for the diverse flavors and textures of the other ingredients mixed into the rice. For example:
The ground roasted rice adds a yeasty aroma and creates a slightly sandy layer that enhances the rice’s earthy qualities.
Thinly sliced fresh Thai garlic imparts a sharp, localized and lingering essence that contrasts with the fruity-citrusy aroma of the bitter orange peels mixed into the rice.
Naturally sweet and tender cooked shrimp, moist cooked firm pork fat, and thin slices of chewy cooked pork skin expand the dish’s savoriness with three distinct textures.
The use of freshly minced young galangal in the dish adds a magical essence that affects the way we perceive flavor. Its mildly puckering and astringent taste dries the mouth, which in turn prolongs the time it takes us to discern tastes. This stretched sensation allows the playful and fast-appearing-fast-disappearing citrusy notes to linger even longer on the palate, resulting in a more nuanced interplay of flavors and textures that unfolds gradually and slowly with each bite. This in turn emphasizes the unique qualities of each ingredient mixed into the rice, creating an unforgettable animated sensation and leaving a lasting impression in the culinary gallery of our senses.
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- 3 cups cooked rice (ข้าวสวย)
- 1 tablespoon young galangal (ข่าอ่อน) finely minced
- 4 tablespoons ground roasted glutinous rice (khao khua) (ข้าวคั่ว) /or
- roasted jasmine rice (khao jao khua) (ข้าวเจ้าคั่ว)
- 1/3 cup shrimp (กุ้ง) cooked and shredded
- 1/3 cup firm pork fat (มันหมูแข็ง) cooked and cut into thin elongated slices
- 1/3 cup pork meat (เนื้อหมู) cooked and cut into thin elongated slices
- 1 tablespoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย) thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon bitter orange peel (som.saa)(ผิวนส้มซ่า) thinly sliced
- 2 parts bitter orange juice (som.saa)(น้ำส้มซ่า) )
- 1 part lime juice (น้ำมะนาว)
- 1 part fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 1/2 part granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- bitter orange peel (som.saa)(ผิวนส้มซ่า) thinly sliced
- pork skin (หนังหมู) cooked and thinly sliced
- fresh red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแดง) sliced into hair-thin juliennes
- fresh yellow chili (phrik leuang) (พริกเหลือง) sliced into hair-thin juliennes
- wild pepper leaves (ชะพลู)
- lettuce leaves (ผักกาดหอม)
Prepare the ingredients:
- Peel and de-vein the shrimp. Cook them and then cut into thin threads. Cook the firm pork fat and cut into thin elongated slices. Wash the sliced pork skin in acidic water with vinegar to remove the stickiness. Set aside.
- Peel and slice the garlic; cut the bitter orange peel into thin slices. Set aside.
- Mince the young galangal finely. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix all the seasoning ingredients: the lime juice, fish sauce and granulated sugar. Mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
Mix the rice:
- Put the cooked rice in a mixing bowl, and add the ground roasted glutinous rice (khao khua).
- Add the minced galangal and mix well.
- Add and mix into the rice the cooked shrimp, cooked firm pork fat, and cooked and washed pork skin. Set aside a portion of each ingredient for the garnish.
- Add the seasoning until you are satisfied with the sour-salty and slightly sweet flavor profile.
- Add the thinly sliced bitter orange peel and garlic to the rice.
- Serve by topping the rice with cooked and thinly sliced pork skin, fresh red long chilies and yellow chilies sliced into hair-thin juliennes, wild pepper leaves, and lettuce.