Our first Thai meal in Bangkok was Saturday night at Baan Khanitha and as a complimentary snack we were given this little treat. Amazing flavors with the ingredients all fighting for dominance in your mouth! Betel leaf has been used from ancient times as an aromatic stimulant and eaten after a meal to assist digestion. This recipe hails from my latest cookbook, ‘At The Table of Jim Thompson’. Jim Thompson was an American businessman who helped revitalize Thailand’s silk and textile industry in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Betel or lettuce leaves
60g (3/4 cup) grated coconut, oven toasted until light brown
2 small limes, unpeeled and diced
4 fresh bird’s eye chilies, finely sliced
6 tablespoons diced shallots
6 tablespoons roasted peanuts
6 tablespoons small dried shrimp
60g (3/4 cup) shallots, coarsely sliced
60g (3/4 cup) fresh galangal, slivered and roasted until fragrant (you can also use young ginger)
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
20g (1/4 cup) grated coconut, oven toasted until light brown
115g (1 1/2 cups) small dried shrimp
420ml (1 3/4 cups) water
230g (1 1/4 cups) palm sugar, broken into small chunks
2 tablespoons sugar
To prepare the sauce, pound the shallots and galangal finely with a mortar and pestle. Add the shrimp paste, coconut and dried shrimp and pound until smooth. Add this mixture with the water and both types of sugar to a pot. Bring this to a boil over medium heat and simmer on low heat until reduced to about 1 cup. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat and transfer the sauce to a bowl.
To serve, separate the filling ingredients into individual bowls. Place a small amount of each ingredient in the center of the leaf and top with a teaspoonful of sauce. Fold up and pop into your mouth!
The Culinary Chase’s Note: Bird’s eye chilies are too hot for me so I would use a regular red chili (seeds removed). These little appetizers were wonderful and a great topic of conversation with your guests.