Who can say no to a delicious plate of pad thai? Enjoy one of the most vibrant, varied cuisines in the world with Simple Thai Food (Ten Speed Press, 2014). Author Leela Punyaratabandhu delivers 100 easy-to-make recipes for classic Thai dishes, complete with information about the key ingredients, tools and accompaniments. The following recipe for salad bites is excerpted from “Noshes and Nibbles.”
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Miang, which I like to call “leaf-wrapped salad bites,” is a bit of an interactive dish: Various items—in this case, finely diced ginger, shallot, and lime; dried shrimp; flaked coconut; chopped peanuts—are assembled on a platter. Diners are invited to grab a palm-size leaf, pile on it a little bit of each component, top the whole thing with a drizzle of sauce, wrap it up into a small bundle, and then consume it in one perfect bite.
Miang kham, one of the best-known of these flavorful salad bites outside of Thailand, is dressed with a thick, sweet sauce and traditionally wrapped in cha-phlu leaves, which are known as la lot in Vietnamese and wild betel leaves in English (not to be confused with betel leaves). In their absence, you can use young deveined collard greens or tender leaves of Chinese broccoli; in the case of the latter, the dish is often called miang khana.
Leaf-Wrapped Salad Bites Recipe
• 1 tablespoon meaty dried shrimp
• 1/2 cup hot water
• 1 stalk lemongrass
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried coconut flakes
• 1 shallot, about 1 ounce, peeled and sliced thinly against the grain
• 2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices galangal, coarsely chopped
• 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped peeled ginger
• 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
• 1/2 cup packed grated palm sugar plus 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (or substitute 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar)
• 1 tablespoon fish sauce
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted peanuts
• 1 lime
• 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 2 shallots, about 1 ounce each, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
• 5 or 6 fresh bird’s-eye chilies, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
• 1/3 cup meaty dried shrimp
• 20 to 30 cha-plu leaves or 3-inch squares collard green or Chinese broccoli leaves
1. To make the sauce, soak the dried shrimp in hot water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, trim off and discard the leafy parts of the lemongrass stalk, remove the tough outer leaves of the bulb portion until the smooth, pale green core is exposed, and trim off the root end. Working from the root end, cut the bulb crosswise into paper-thin slices, stopping once you reach the point at which the purple rings disappear. Set the slices aside and discard the remainder.
2. Put the dried coconut flakes in a wok or 14-inch skillet and toast them on medium heat, stirring constantly, until medium brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the toasted coconut flakes for the sauce and set the remainder aside for the salad. Wipe out any toasted coconut sediment from the wok. Add the lemongrass slices, shallot, galangal, and ginger to the clean wok, then toast over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the shallot slices are dry to the touch, about 5 minutes. Place the toasted mixture, drained dried shrimp, and shrimp paste in a mortar or a mini chopper and grind to a smooth paste.
3. Put the prepared paste, sugars, fish sauce, and water in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 1 cup, after 2 to 3 minutes, take the saucepan off the heat. Let the sauce cool completely. Once the dressing is cooled, stir in the chopped peanuts and the reserved 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes and transfer to a small serving bowl.
4. To prepare the salad, quarter the lime lengthwise and trim away the core. Cut the quarters into 1⁄4-inch dice, leaving the rind intact. Alternatively, for those who are sensitive to the bitterness of the lime rind, cut the lime into wedges (as shown in the photograph) and invite diners to squeeze about 1⁄2 teaspoon lime juice onto each composed salad bite.
5. Arrange the lime, ginger, shallots, peanuts, chiles, dried shrimp, cha-phlu leaves, and the dressing on a large serving platter.
6. To eat, put a leaf on your palm, add a bit of each component to the center of the leaf, top with a small spoonful of dressing, gather up the corners of the leaf to form a bag, and eat the whole thing in one bite.
Note: If the diced ginger tastes too spicy hot, rinse it in cold water three or four times until the water runs clear and blot it dry.
More Recipes from Simple Thai Food
Reprinted with permission from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Erin Kunkel. Purchase this book from our store: Simple Thai Food.