Miang Kham is a traditional Thai snack food that translates as "many things in one bite." It's an explosion of taste in your mouth. Coconut, tiny shrimp, chili, garlic, ginger, and lime all combine to create this amazing effect. Traditionally banana leaves are used, but spinach leaves or lettuce leaves work just as well and, unlike banana leaf, can be eaten. Miang Kham is a dish that can be found among the street vendors or is equally at home in an elegant Thai restaurant. Try it, and be ready to share!
- 1 small bunch spinach leaves (baby spinach are too small), OR smaller lettuce leaves (large enough to be wrapped up for 1 bite), OR banana leaves cut into 3 to 4 inch square or diamond-shaped pieces)
- 1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut (baking type)
- 1/4 cup small dried shrimp, or substitute 1/2 cup baby shrimp
- 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts (unsalted)
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 fresh red chili, minced, OR 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed chili or cayenne pepper
- 1 thumb-size piece of galangal or ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- If using uncooked baby shrimp, boil 3 to 5 minutes then drain. Be sure to pat dry.
- Place dried coconut into a frying pan to toast it. Turn on the heat to medium-high and stir the coconut continuously, "dry frying" until it turns golden (1 to 2 minutes). Place toasted coconut in a mixing bowl.
- If using dried shrimp, place it in a food processor and process into powder-like bits. A pestle & mortar works well for this too. Add the powdered shrimp to the coconut in the mixing bowl.
- If using cooked baby shrimp: Lightly chop into small pieces (in halves or thirds) and add them to the mixing bowl together with the toasted coconut.
- Grind up the peanuts, reducing them to very small pieces (you can also chop/crush them finely with a knife), and add them to the bowl.
- Put garlic and galangal/ginger into the food processor and process, or finely mince/grate. (Remove any fibrous or "stringy" bits from the galangal/ginger.) Add to the bowl.
- Now add the chili powder, chili, and fish sauce. Stir well. Note: At this point you can do a taste-test, adding more chili if you'd prefer it spicier, or more fish sauce if you'd prefer it saltier. If you'd like some sweet notes, add 1/4 tsp. white sugar. You should be able to taste a little of each flavor.
- To plate appetizer, arrange 4 or more leaves (spinach, lettuce, banana leaf segments - diamond shape look nice) on a platter. Spoon some of the filling onto each leaf. Top with more toasted coconut and serve with wedges of lime.
Squeeze over a little lime juice, then pop the whole thing into your mouth. The taste-bud-tantalizing sensation of this appetizer pairs well with a cold lager or a glass of chilled white wine.
Coconut Cooking Tip
Leave the pan on the heat just until it is hot, then remove it while continuing to stir the coconut. If the pan overheats, the coconut will burn.