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Mon Dipping Sauce (น้ำปลามอญ) by Ong Bunjoon

Mon Dipping Sauce
I recently fell in love with a book. I’m still head over heels as I’m typing this sentence.

Long story short, I popped into a Kinokuniya during a quick layover in Bangkok early this summer in hopes of finding something tiny but texty and thrilling* to read on the 4-hour plane ride I’d catch later that evening. No more than 5 minutes later, I walked out with a copy of Khang Samrap Mon (ข้างสำรับมอญ)**, a pocketbook — still shrink-wrapped — with nothing that appealed to me on a quick glance other than the author’s vaguely familiar name.

Not only was the book devoured in one sitting as planned, it was also constantly by my side as I was hopping from place to place in East and Southeast Asia in the following 3 months. All sorts of brutal acts like double- and triple-underlining, highlighting, dog-earing, excessive exclamation pointing, and ranty, monologic marginal-notating had been committed by me against the poor book. But in the process, I had learned so much about the culture and food of the ethnic Mon in Thailand. Continue Reading →

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Sweet Potato Fritters from Simple Thai Food Book

Sweet Potato Fritters from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu

© Erin Kunkel/Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House

I have recently written another article about GFB, the woman behind these sweet potato fritters as well as many other fried things I have yet to introduce you to. The article also includes instructions on how to make them.

Halloween would have been a more appropriate time to run this story — any story about GFB, actually. But it’s a long way away and I would like you to give this recipe — one of my personal favorites from Simple Thai Food book — a try now.

So if you’re not the type that gets scared easily, please move on over to Wall Street Journal Scene Asia.

You’ve been warned.

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Chilled Tapioca-Cantaloupe-Coconut Milk Dessert Soup (สาคูแคนตาลูป)

Chilled Tapioca-Cantaloupe-Coconut Milk Dessert Soup
Many types of dessert soup, featuring various main ingredients, are routinely consumed in Thailand as well as other places in Asia, especially the East and Southeast. Some of these dessert soups are served warm; some are served chilled or topped with crushed or shaved ice; some are great at any temperature. I have covered some of them here already. Remember pineapple in iced syrup (or the apricot version of it), glutinous rice pearls in sweet coconut cream, crunchy water chestnut dumplings in iced coconut syrup, or sweet sticky rice and durian in coconut cream? Even things that you don’t normally associate with dessert — let alone ice dessert — can be prepared in this manner, e.g. egg noodles. Sa-khu Cantaloupe (localized as khaentalûp), a chilled dessert ‘soup’ of chewy tapioca, juicy cantaloupe, and sweet and creamy coconut milk fits right in that pattern.

Once cooked, tapioca pearls become soft, translucent, sticky, and viscous. Sweetened with sugar and topped with creamy and slightly salty coconut cream topping, you get a comforting, warm, and gooey pudding that comes in countless variations depending on what other ingredients you add to the tapioca base to create different flavors and textures (corn kernels, young coconut meat, and taro are among the most common add-ins). The way tapioca pearls are used in this case, however, is atypical. The presence of this large amount of coconut milk breaks up the starchy “glue” that holds the cooked tapioca pearls together, causing the tiny beads to loosen, separate from one another, and float freely.

The end result is not much different from a chilled bubble tea. The only exception is that it’s served in a bowl instead of a tall see-through glass, that the tapioca pearls are lighter in color and much smaller, and that you go after the little pearls and the added melon balls with a spoon and not an oversized straw. Continue Reading →

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