Pad tai, Tom yum, Satay…Hatyai!!
It might sound like your Grandfather sneezing or an action, exclamation from your favourite Manga cartoon character, but Hatyai is actually a little town near the Siamese-Malaysian border, (read Thai border, but Siam sounds so much more exotic!). This little hub has been a mecca for Malaysian tourists looking for a great deal, for about 20 years now. Everything is highly geared towards the local tourist dollar, from the array of body and foot massage centres, to the vast numbers of Chinese food outlets. Amazingly, it was actually quite a struggle to find Thai food at all! One shop owner when asked what traditionally Thai dishes she served, screwed up her nose at me and quite flatly, said, “None”.
Well, this was not exactly the beginning to the great Thai, culinary adventure that I was hoping for!
It actually took some leg work, getting amongst the street stalls and doing a bit of sticky beaking, to find some more traditional snacks and drinks. As you can imagine, I automatically gravitated towards anything sweet and dessert like. Some were familiar to me from Thai restaurants I have visited and some, well, I couldn’t get an explanation of what they were, even when I was trying to buy them! Like most Asian desserts, gelatinous textures with complex sweet and salty flavour combinations were the main themes. It took eventually coming across a drink stall, which was packed with people, to really highlight to me, how limited our Western palatte and diet really is. From pennywort and chrysanthemum to basil there was a board of at least 20 types of herbal thirst quenchers, that customers were lined up for. Chilled bottles were handed out in twos and threes across the sea of heads, amongst the noise and chaos that typifies a sweltering evening at the night market. Having just been blown away by the amazing variety of flavours, I walked on…and then there it was.
There is always one dessert that rises up above all else and really, it doesn’t have to be the biggest, the most expensive or the most complex, just the most memorable 🙂
Freshly sliced, Thai mangoes served with a fragrant glutinous rice and coconut milk. Oh, it took my breath away, sublimely simple but the Thai mangoes are fresher in taste, and have less of the juicy, over the top sweetness that we demand from our Queensland mangoes. The simple smooth, firm freshness, of the mangoes, paired perfectly with the fragrant pandan infused, slightly salty, glutinous rice. Definitely my most memorable food moment this trip.
Here is a recipe for Kao Niow Ma-muang which I have tweaked (no surprises there!) that you might like to try.
- 2 cups glutinous rice (available from Asian grocery stores)
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2-3 fresh or frozen pandan leaves (available from Asian grocery stores)
- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
Place rice in a large bowl and rinse the rice with cold water
Fill bowl with water so that the water line is about 5 centimetres over the rice line. Soak overnight.
Line a bamboo steaming basket with a clean tea towel. Spread the rice evenly over the tea towel.
Place covered steamer basket over boiling water and steam for approximately 30 minutes.
Open the steamer basket, stir the rice to help cook it more evenly, and sprinkle approximately 1/2 cup water over the top of the rice. Cover basket and steam for a further 30 minutes.
Heat coconut milk, sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Do not boil. Stir until smooth.
Hand shred 2-3 pandan leaves and tie them into a knot. Place pandan leaves into coconut milk and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove pandan leaves and squeeze liquid from leaves back into sauce, before discarding. Keep sauce warm.
Transfer cooked rice to a large bowl.
While rice is still hot, stir through half of the coconut sauce. Stir well with a large spoon, making sure all grains are well coated.
Let rice stand for approximately 15 minutes.
Serve 1 scoop of rice with sliced mango on the side. Top with some basil or mint, and maybe a scoop of coconut ice cream to add a little ‘Bliss’!
Serve coconut sauce in a separate jug so that anyone who would like extra sauce can help themselves!
Dream of warm, sunny beaches or bustling, teaming night markets. Either way see you in Thailand 🙂