Tasty Tuesday – เมี่ยงคำ
Today’s tasty treat is something called เมี่ยงคำ or Miang Kham.
The name of this particular snack suits it quite well as the word miang (เมี่ยง), means “food wrapped in leaves”, and kham (คำ) translates to “a bite”. And, that’s exactly what this is! A bite of a whole bunch of different things, all wrapped up in a lovely little edible leaf pouch.
I going to tell you right from the beginning that this is not one of my favorite snacks. It’s not my least favorite either. I just simply can’t get it nearby, nor do I want to go out and buy each of the ingredients separately and on my own. It’s also a pretty good chew when eating one of these tasty little parcels, so your jaw has to be up to the challenge as well. All that said, if you can find it, if your mouth is up for a little workout (really only the first 20 seconds or so), and if you’ve got a bit of patience to spare, the burst of flavors you’ll experience is quite unlike anything I bet you’ve ever tasted. That’s the part that’s worth it.
First, you begin with a leaf. The typical leaf used in this snack comes from a plant in the pepper family called cha plu – ช้าพลู. The leaves are slightly bitter and have a bit of a peppery taste as well. If cha-plu isn’t available, these can be successfully made with fresh spinach leaves, which are also easier to chew. In some regions, the Betel leaf is also used.
While holding the leaf flat in your palm, one or two small bits of each of the remaining ingredients is placed in the center – toasted coconut, finely diced red onion, lime (with the peel!), and ginger, as well as dry-roasted peanuts, and tiny dried shrimps. Some people also like to add thin slices of chili or garlic for some kick, but that’s up to the individual. Atop this little pile of goodies, you then drizzle a small amount of a sweet-salty sauce made from palm sugar syrup and fish sauce. Once everything is there, it’s time to either roll it up and tuck in the ends like a burrito, or do it Thai style and make pyramid shaped pouches like these –
When it’s time to eat, simply pull one off the stick, pop it in your mouth, and get right to work. As I said before, it takes probably a good 15-20 seconds of chewing to get through the leaf and start mixing the flavors contained within it, but it’s well worth the effort. Once the leaf begins to break, each flavor seems to emerge one at a time for you to experience before all blending together into one cohesive mix. I once heard somebody describe Miang Kham as “fireworks” in their mouth as a result of this.
Thai food never ceases to amaze me. If it amazes you too, and you’d like to try one of these snacks, just hop on a plane, come on over, and I’ll take you out. 🙂 For real.