I recently spent a few days in Bangkok, a once hated city which has grown on me in ways reminiscent of disordered teenage crushes (ohmygod I-like-you-so-much-we’ll-be-together-forever-let’s-have-babies-and-save-the-world). It’s a city of food, pure and simple. It was made to be eaten, and that’s precisely what captured my interest and drew me into this urban love affair (I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-you-do-you-love-me).
I set out early one morning to have breakfast at a vegetarian food court near Chatuchak. Alas, it was Monday, the one day a week the restaurant is closed. Crushed (but not overly so as the adjoining shop remained open and I found some vegan chili belacan), I was directed to another vegetarian stall down the road.
I’ve no idea the name of the place, (which is off Kamphaengphet 2 Rd) but I owe them my soul for introducing me to khanom jeen.
In Thailand noodles are mainly featured in fried dishes (the ubiquitous pad thai, for instance), and curries are almost always eaten with rice. This street dish is the exception, where khanom jeen noodles are served with one of a selection of different curries and any number of condiments to suit personal taste. It’s a cheap dish, not generally huge in portion size, usually costing a more than reasonable 20-30 baht (in the ballpark of 50p), and is well worth seeking out.
The khanom jeen stall I found had three curries to serve with the noodles: green, nam prik, and nam ya. The language barrier between the owner and me left me leaving her to decide, and she chose nam prik (I had her write the dishes down and later had them translated). That’s not the recipe I’ve written below, which is more of a simple and basic red curry with extra added galangal, but you get the idea. More to come, hopefully.
Vegetarian Khanom Jeen Nam Ya
- Cook the noodles per packet instructions and leave to cool to room temperature to get sticky and slightly gummed together (this helps the sauce stick).
- Add the water, coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaf to a small saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes before mixing in the curry paste and all remaining ingredients but the garnishes. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
- Ladle the sauce over the noodles and eat with any (or all!) garnishes to suit your taste.