Hi Lynan! That appetizer dish is called Mieng Kham. I think it's one of the most creative dishes ever invented: a bizarre melange of unlikely ingredients that together combust into a mind-blowing taste in the mouth! The leaf is called Bai Chomplooh locally. Not sure if that's Betel leaf in English but I read that sometimes they use Betel leaf for this dish.
Typically you hold one small leaf in one hand. With the other hand, pile the following on the leaf:
1-2 small dried shrimps
1 diced ginger (younger is better)
1 cubed red onion
Some toasted grated coconut
1 cubed lime with skin on (thinner skin is better)
2 cubes of pork crackling (optional)
1 pc finely sliced bird's eye chili
(Try to get all the cubes about 1/4 inch X 1/4 inch. )
Then smother the filling with the Miengkham sauce (see below). Wrap into a tiny roll or cone, and pop into your mouth and chew. Wait for the taste explosion!
For those wondering, your mouth will be pleasantly shocked with the simultaneous combination of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, nutty, crunchy, chewy, shrimpy, coconutty, spicy and HOT.
I still have to meet somebody (including non-Thai asians and westerners) who doesn't love this dish.
Good luck Lynan!
Ingredients for the Miengkham Sauce
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
, roasted until fragrant
2 oz fresh galangal
, cut into slivers and roasted until fragrant (see note below)
1/4 cup grated coconut, roasted in a low-heat oven until lightly brown
4 oz small dried shrimps
2 oz shallots, peeled and coarsely cut
1.5 teaspoons fresh ginger, sliced
8 oz palm sugar
(broken into small chunks)
2 tablespoons table sugar
salt for seasoning
In a mortar and pestle
, pound together the shallots and galangal until fine (note about galangal: it's ok to use dried galangal
as long as it's placed in a dish of lukewarm water for a few minutes to reconstitute). Add roasted shrimp paste, ginger, coconut and dried shrimp, and continue pounding until smooth. Remove the mixture and place in a pot with 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, add palm sugar and table sugar, then reduce heat and simmer, wait until reduced to 1 cup or a bit less. Taste, and adjust by adding a bit of salt. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.