We were spending the day at a Thai village and I watched and helped prepare a red ant soup made with local herbs and leaves some of which I had not seen before.
One of the ingredients Pla a fermented fish which is very popular in dishes here in the North of Thailand is not one of my favourites, the look, the smell and the taste are not for me. Saying that my natural curiosity to taste everything is often an overriding factor so what I am saying is I am getting used to it...Still not my favourite but getting used to it... I never thought I would say that...so never say never...
Firstly we stripped the leaves from the Thai vegetable called Melientha sauvis or in Thai Phak waan paa which comes from a wild ever green tree which grows up to 10 metres high and it is the young shoots which are picked to make soup or a dried fish curry.
It is classed as a delicacy here and a quite expensive indigenous vegetable. I was told that the soup is also good if you have tummy problems.....I love that the Thais in the villages still practise the old ways with herbs and roots to cure a number of ills.. Rather than conventional medicines which some cannot afford or trust.
Before I start I will say that there are no weighing scales here but TASTE is king and that's what cooking is about. A handful of this and a touch of that.
Take a bunch of Melientha and strip the leaves also take a small bunch of lemon basil and do the same. Put in water.
Tear the yellow oyster mushrooms into smallish pieces and put in another pot.
A few teaspoons of pla was put in the pot and some water added as well as a shake or two of fish sauce and a little msg....I do not use this in my cooking but I know that it still used in the majority of village homes.
This was bought to the boil and the mushrooms were added, this was simmered for 5 mins and then the picked greens were added along side a portion of red ants eggs.
It looked lovely and fresh and vibrant...I was however not looking forward to the tasting because of the amount of pla...
A dish was duly given to me with smiles of expectation. Would I eat it? Would I like it?
Very tentatively I tasted it...Wow, it was good...The lemon basil and the ants eggs.which have a lemony taste overrode the strong taste of the pla.....A truly lovely taste of Thailand.
If you ever get the chance to cook with the locals do it...I feel truly blessed that they are family and I have many opportunities to do this.
Published by Carol Taylor