Miang kham. เมี่ยงคำ. Translated it means ‘eating many things in one bite.’ This is one of the traditional foods found in Thailand and now is the season. It’s the rainy season and the wet lowlands are bringing forth a bounty of leaves of the cha pluu. Cha pluu (Piper sarmentosum) is also known as wild betel.
Miang kham is a finger food, wrapped and popped in the mouth. One fills the large leaves from the assembled bowls of ingredients, as much or as little as you please.
Here’s a list of ingredients:
Cha pluu leaves (To make this back home, or whenever wild betel leaves are hard to find, you can substitute large leaves of spinach, tender cabbage leaves, baby chard or even your favorite lettuce.)
Roasted peanuts (use the unsalted ones and roast them yourself in a dry pan, over a medium flame, stirring frequently so as not to burn them)
Pan-roasted Coconut flakes (unsweetened and roasted with no oil)
Finely diced shallots or red onions
Finely chopped ginger
Thin skinned limes or lemons (limes are used extensively in Thai cuisine, lemons are almost non-existent)
Finely chopped Thai chilis (green and red)
Finely diced garlic (optional)
Dipping sauce recipe. (Taken from Authentic Thai Recipes www.importfoods.com)
1 tablespoon shrimp paste, roasted until fragrant
2 oz fresh galangal, cut into slivers and roasted until fragrant (see notes below)
1/4 cup grated coconut, unsweetened, 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
With 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.
Additional note about galangal. Galangal is very similar to ginger but one shouldn’t be substituted for the other. Try to search out galangal, fresh or dried, in an Asian or Indian market (or Penzey’s Spices).
This is quite simple. Have everything chopped and assembled in small bowls or arranged decoratively on a large plate. Wash the leaves, shake off excess water. Take a leaf, fold the stem end to create a small cup-like well and start filling that cup with a little bit from each bowl, starting with a tablespoon of peanuts. Finish with a spoonful of the sauce. Fold over the ends and pop into your mouth.
The array of tastes will amaze you, if you use fresh, fresh ingredients: salty, sweet, hot, tart, spicy, with a little bitter. Miang kham is a fresh, refreshing delight.