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Fusion Food' Trends... with a Thai Twist

Thai food has become so popular around the world that even a successful Thai food restaurant in Europe recently opened a branch in Bangkok along with a cooking school. Talk about "bringing coals to Newcastle."

But Thai restaurants are everywhere on every continent, even at the most southern tip of South America. The DEP urges all restaurants abroad that specialize in Thai food to adhere to its standard recipes of the country's five most native dishes to ensure uniform use of ingredients, taste and tradition of preparation. Even so, how do we know that Thai food enthusiasts abroad even know that they are eating real Thai cuisine?

I recall the time when the mother of my best friend from Scotland visited Chiangmai. She was raving about Thai food and how she often enjoys eating at a Thai restaurant in her hometown. Her favorite dish is peas with pieces of chicken and water chestnuts in a sweet tomato sauce. It reminded me of a time in college when my friends and I raided a nearly barren pantry after a late night. On the other hand, she turned her nose up at a fantastic dish of panaeng moo!

The press has been publishing articles recently about the popularity of Thai food around the world. In the U.S., reports say that customers are requesting mainstream American chefs to put more Asian foods on the menu. And what are the most popular Thai dishes American restaurant chains such as California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory have come up with? Thai chicken pizza and Thai chicken pasta. Also, Thai lettuce wraps iceberg lettuce leaves filled with Salmon, vegetable slices and peanut saucea weak variation on miang salmon. Now you know what a Thai Wrap means. Imagine your favorite Thai snacks wrapped in salad leaves for easy eating.

Of course, such "fusion food" is not an entirely new fad in the U.S., especially in California where "California Cuisine" has always been considered a light combination of European and Asian flavors in healthy dishes. But whatever becomes "fused" becomes the new thing, and the spotlight is now apparently on Thai and other Southeast Asian foods.

A true Thai snack follows several important codes: It must be served in a way that includes portions for more than one person. It must be easy to eat, not requiring extra plates and utensils. Of course, it must be delicious enough to tempt somebody away from whatever they happen to be doing for a few minutes between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner. The ingredients must be fresh and unprocessed this ain't a bag of potato chips! It must be quick and easy to prepare and arranged in an attractive way.

Like most traditional Thai snacks, the ingredients of Miang Salmon are chosen to complement each other both in taste and in health benefits. Ginger is well known as a natural aid to digestion, and any number of the edible leaves that can be used in the recipe offer some sort of herbal benefit.

Sauce :

  1. 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  2. ½ tablespoon sliced shallots ½ tablespoon sliced galangal
  3. 1 teaspoon sliced ginger
  4. 2 tablespoons chopped dried shrimps
  5. 2 tablespoons grated coconut
  6. 3 tablespoons chopped un- salted peanuts
  7. 1 cup chopped palm sugar
  8. 2 ½ cups water

Filling :

  1. 5 tablespoons grated coco- nut, roasted in moderate oven until light brown
  2. 3 tablespoons finely diced ginger
  3. 3 tablespoons finely diced shallots
  4. 3 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts
  5. 3 tablespoons small dried shrimps, chopped
  6. 3 tablespoons finely diced lime
  7. 2 tablespoons chopped green bird's-eye chillies
  8. 20 bite-size pieces of Salmon
  9. 20 iceberg lettus leaves

Preparation of Sauce :

  1. In a saucepan, combine and heat the shrimp paste, shallots and galangal until you smell the aroma, then let it cool.
  2. Blend the shrimp paste, shallot and galangal mixture with the coconut, peanuts, shrimp and giner in a food processor, or, if you really want to do it the old-fashioned way, pound the ingredients with a mortar and pestle.
  3. Pour the contents into a saucepan, adding the sugar and water. Mix well and keep stirring as it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while the mixture shrinks to about a cup, then let it cool.

Serving :

Pour the sauce into a small, decorative serving bowl and arrange the edible leaves, dried shrimps, limes, shallots, small hot chilies, peanuts, gingers and roasted coconuts in separate, very small bowls around it on a medium sized platter.

Eating :

Take a leaf and place a small amount of each of the filling ingredients in the middle, top with a spoonful of sauce, and fold up into a little package. Pop the package into your mouth and enjoy the fresh, springy taste !

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