Do you ever have a craving for something, but you just can't seem to put your taste bud on it? Not sure if you want something salty, sweet, sour or spicy? Maybe you want it all! If so, then I have just the thing to satiate your desires: mieng kum. Whenever I go to a Thai restaurant I look for mieng kum on the menu, usually listed as an appetizer. To people who have never had this delicious dish I describe it as "a taste explosion in your mouth." It has about every flavor, thus awakening any part of your tongue that has been neglected. If your tongue could grab pom-poms, do back flips and sing a cheer, this would be the dish it would root for.
You take a leaf and put a little of the following in it: ginger (fragrant and sweet with a kick of spiciness), shallots (aromatic and spicy), Thai chilies (to give you that fire heat), dried shrimp (adding the perfect amount of salty-fishiness, but in a good way!), peanuts (a salty, earthy taste to balance with the sweetness), lime (citrus adds the perfect amount of sour), toasted coconut (giving it that sweet, tropical flavor), top it with a sweet and savory sauce, fold it up and pop it in your mouth... POW!!!! The perfect dish to satisfy all of your taste buds.
Any edible leaf can be used. Usually it is served in betel leaves, beautiful shiny dark green leaves, but they can be difficult to find. Check your local Asian market. When we can't find betel leaves we use large spinach leaves.
5 tablespoons grated coconut, toasted
3 tablespoons finely diced shallots
3 tablespoons diced lime, with the rind on
3 tablespoons diced ginger
3 tablespoons small dried shrimp
3 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons diced Thai chilies
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1/2 tablespoon sliced galangal
1/2 tablespoon sliced shallots
2 tablespoons grated coconut
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped dried shrimp
1 teaspoon sliced ginger 1 cup chopped palm sugar
2 1/2 cups water
Roast the shrimp paste, galangal and shallots in a small skillet until fragrant. Set aside and let cool. Once cooled toss into a food processor with the coconut, peanuts, shrimp and ginger, and blend. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add the sugar and water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer until it is reduced to about 1 cup, then let it cool. Place all the ingredients in little individual bowls or in separate piles on dinnerware. Take a leaf and place a bit of each ingredient in the center, top with the sauce, fold it up and pop it in your mouth!
Recipe courtesy of The Food of Thailand: Authentic Recipes from the Golden Kingdom.
Note: if the sauce is too ambitious for you, or you are unable to find some of the ingredients, simply make a sweet/savory sauce with what you have in your pantry. We've made concoctions with Major Grey's chutney mixed with a bit of fish sauce and a dash of Sriracha. Use your culinary creativity!