Serving as an accompaniment in Thai cuisine for many centuries, this dish has remained untouched by any foreign influence. Lon – an authentic Thai dip that banks on tradition.
In the Thai language, lon (lohn; หลน) means to simmer. In this ancient style dip, minced pork and fermented shrimp paste, along with smoked-charred dry fish, chilies, and other aromatics, are slowly simmered in rich coconut cream to create a deep, multi-layered – yet subtle and silky – dip; a dip which is then lightly seasoned with just palm sugar and fish sauce. The dip is served with an array of fresh and fried vegetables, tempura-like cakes, crispy small fishes or tiny transparent salt-water shrimp. For a dish with so many subtle flavors, there is surprisingly little fuss.
While lon is served at every Thai restaurant, this particular version is getting dangerously difficult to find: few restaurants still serve it and even fewer diners remember to order it. Food can be a glue between generations. It would be sad to see this dish disappear from the Thai culinary repertoire.
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- 200 g pork meat (เนื้อหมู) minced
- 2 1/2 cups coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (น้ำปลา)
- 3 tablespoons palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 2 fresh red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแดง)
- 2 fresh green long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าเขียว)
Chili Paste Ingredients
- 3-4 dried red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแห้ง)
- 4 rhizomes of krachai fingerroot
- 2 lemongrass (ตะไคร้)
- 1/2 cup shallots (หอมแดง)
- smoke-dried fish (all varieties) (ปลาย่างรมควัน) 3 to 4 fish
- 3 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste (kapi)(กะปิย่างไฟ) kapi
- Grill the dried fish over charcoal until it is crispy and lightly charred.
- Using your fingers, break the fish flesh into large chunks. Carefully observe the abdomen area and discard the remains of any internal organs. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fish meat finely.
- De-seed the dry chilies; soak in warm water until soft.
- In a mortar and pestle, pound the dry chilies into a fine paste.
- Add krachai, the lemongrass stalks and the shallots; pound into a fine paste.
- Add the pounded dry fish and fermented shrimp paste; work everything into an even paste.
- Place 1 1/2 cups of the coconut cream in a pan over medium heat; stir constantly, until the coconut cream and the oil separate. The oil should float on top.
- Add the chili paste; mix well, and cook for couple of minutes.
- Add the minced pork meat. Cook thoroughly.
- Add the remaining cup of coconut milk; cook and stir until the mixture thickens.
- Season with fish sauce and palm sugar.
- Add the green and red chilies cut into large chunks.
- Garnish with shallots, and the green and red chilies.
- Serve with fresh vegetables, fried shrimp or with crispy fish batter.