For the most part on this blog, I’ve stuck to making dishes that you can find in Thai restaurants here in the States. But now, allow me to introduce you to a Thai dish that I have rarely seen in American establishments.
It’s a fish curry which is eaten over a bed of thin rice noodles and accompanied by fresh vegetables, lemon basil, and hard boiled eggs (khanom jeen nam ya/ขนมจีนน้ำยา). With all of these accompaniments, it’s not your traditional Thai curry by any means, but it’s exactly these side items that make this dish so special. Here in the States, some of the ingredients require a little detective work to track down, but the payoff in the end is totally worth it.
The curry itself calls for an herb named fingerroot (krachai/กระชาย). Fingerroot is a relative of ginger, but has a slightly less spicy, more robust flavor. I’ve found it frozen at local Asian markets and also heard that it can be found pickled as well. This rhizome is mixed with red curry paste to form the basis of the curry.
Another essential ingredient in this dish is lemon basil. It’s served alongside the curry and imparts a bright almost lemongrassy taste to the dish, without which it would just not be the same (although I have to admit we’ve eaten it without this and it’s still delicious – but definitely not the same). Long beans and bean sprouts are also among the vegetables generally served alongside this curry after blanching for a few seconds. And, of course, a hard boiled egg accompanies the dish because, if I may make a blatant generalization, Thai people seem to love eggs.
The curry and all of its accompaniments are served on top of very thin rice noodles called khanom jeen. If you can’t find khanom jeen in your local Asian market, the more readily available Japanese somen noodles are a good substitute. The curry is normally ladled right on top of the noodles and then you can pile the vegetables you want on top.
Each mouthful is filled with flavors of a robust fish curry, fresh vegetables, and a pop of lemon basil. It’s absolutely delicious and so different from what is typically served at restaurants here in the States. So if there’s one Thai dish that you haven’t heard of before but are willing to take a risk and make, make this one!