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One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

Miang kham is a dish that I’ve wanted to share on this blog for a long time now.

This one-bite appetizer embodies bold Thai flavors, with spicy ginger and Thai chilis, sour lime segments, nutty toasted peanuts and coconut, and a sweet and salty shrimp paste-based sauce all wrapped together in a slightly bitter leaf.  It truly does what an appetizer is meant to do: stimulate every single one of your taste buds and make you want more!

The limiting factor for me in making miang kham has always been finding wild pepper leaves (also known as wild betel leaves or bai cha plu/ชะพลู in Thai).

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

Although it’s possible to make miang kham with romaine lettuce or even Chinese broccoli leaves in its place, it just isn’t the same as with these special wild pepper leaves.  They are tender and fresh, and impart a subtle spicy and somewhat bitter flavor to the dish.

Until a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure I had searched everywhere there was to search for these leaves.

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

Then a good friend of mine accompanied me on a trip to my favorite Oakland markets.  Long after I had passed over the fresh produce section, she called me back with a package in her hand, asking “what are these?”  One look at the glistening green leaves and I knew she had found what I had been looking for all of these years!

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

I don’t know if I had been passing over the wild pepper leaves every time I went, or if they were never available when I was shopping in the past.

Whatever the case, I was so incredibly happy that my friend found them! I rushed home with the leaves and spent the rest of the afternoon making miang kham, enjoying some with the boyfriend that night and saving the rest to share with my awesome friend the following day.

Needless to say, if you’re able to get your hands on these wild pepper leaves, this is an appetizer that should be on your “to-make” list!  With so many Thai flavors all wrapped up into one bite, it really is the perfect appetizer.

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

 

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

Makes 4 servings

One Bite Appetizer | Miang Kham | เมี่ยงคำ

Ingredients

    For the Sauce:
  • 1 Tablespoon galanga
  • 2 Tablespoons shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons lemongrass
  • 1 Tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted peanuts
  • For the Appetizer:
  • 20 wild pepper leaves
  • 2-5 Thai chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup lime segments
  • 1/4 cup shallots
  • 1/4 cup ginger
  • 1/4 cup toasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut
  • 1/4 cup toasted dried shrimp

Instructions

    To Make the Sauce:
  1. Start by roasting the shrimp paste. Spread it in a thick layer onto the surface of a banana leaf, fold the leaf into a package, and place it in an oven for approximately 10 minutes at 350 degrees. It will be done when the banana leaf is charred. Foil can be used if banana leaves are not available.
  2. While the shrimp paste is roasting, cut the galanga, ginger, shallots, and lemongrass into small pieces. Roast these herbs by placing them in a pan over medium heat on the stove, and occasionally stirring until they are fully dried out and toasted.
  3. Place the roasted herbs in a mortar and pestle and pound until a coarse paste is formed. Then add the roasted shrimp paste and continue to pound until the paste is smooth.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the paste you have just prepared with fish sauce and palm sugar over medium heat. Continue to cook until a slightly sticky sauce is formed. If it becomes too sticky, water can be added to thin it out.
  5. Once the sauce is ready, stir in chopped toasted peanuts and toasted coconut flakes.
  6. To Make Miang Kham:
  7. Wash the wild pepper leaves and pat dry.
  8. Prepare the peanuts, coconut, and dried shrimp by roasting them separately in a pan over medium heat. Be sure to use raw peanuts and unsweetened coconut flakes, if available, for the best results. Remove these ingredients once they are toasted and let them cool.
  9. Prepare the fresh ingredients by slicing them into small bite-sized pieces. The peppers can be sliced very thinly and the limes should be sliced into wedges with their skin still intact.
  10. To eat this appetizer, take one wild pepper leaf and spread a dollop of sauce in the middle. Then add the rest of the fresh and toasted ingredients to the leaf, wrap it so that they don't fall out, and pop it into your mouth. Enjoy the burst of fresh flavors!

15 comments… add one
  • Lillian January 10, 2016, 4:41 pm

    I am looking online to buy seeds of the wild betel and not finding any except out of the USA. Do you have any sources?

    • Rachel January 11, 2016, 1:40 am

      Hi Lillian, I’m not aware of a source of seeds online. I am fortunately able to find the leaves at my local Thai/Lao market, and they grow remarkably well by rooting the leaf cuttings. If you live nearby a market with these leaves, I’d definitely suggest trying to propagating them from the leaves.

  • Janna December 23, 2015, 9:22 pm

    Hey Rachel! Just wanted to say that your blog is so awesome and helpful!!!!!

    • Rachel December 24, 2015, 4:34 pm

      Thanks Janna! That’s so nice to hear!

  • Grace August 14, 2015, 9:32 am

    I hv planted a lot of the leaves too. I tried the recipe fm friend before n it was nice. Anyone wants free supply of the leaves, write to me at lowgrace@singnet.com.sg.
    Cheers, Grace

  • Leigh April 26, 2015, 12:54 pm

    Rachel love your work and the vibe of your blog! The sauce for this dish came up a treat nice work, takes me back to a recent adventure in Thailand. Next on the list is the ever elusive Pad Thai one which Ive never completely nailed but Ill look forward to trying again under your instruction.
    Cheers Leigh

    • Rachel April 26, 2015, 5:32 pm

      Thanks, Leigh!

  • Don M October 5, 2014, 10:58 pm

    I grow this plant. it was a lucky accident, I though I was buying a peppercorn plant. I have plenty of leaves if anyone can’t fund them locally

  • Janis Woolpert June 15, 2014, 10:44 pm

    I love this dish. I enjoy it with large spinach leaves.

  • Goldie May 11, 2014, 3:54 pm

    This looks yummy! But betel leaves have cancerogens. What would you use as a substitute?

    • Rachel May 11, 2014, 4:58 pm

      Hi Goldie, these “wild betel” leaves are often confused for “betel” leaves, but they are not the same thing. Kasma Loha-Unchit has a fantastic post about the difference between the two leaves: http://thaifoodandtravel.com/blog/betel-leaf/

  • Bibs @ Tasteometer May 11, 2014, 5:30 am

    I’ve heard of these leaves many times, they are even listed in a spanish recipe book I have, but never been able to get them either.

    Sounds like the perfect appetiser for my tastebuds too.

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